We Fought and We Won for Seniors, People with Disabilities, and their Caregivers

By Laphonza Butler, Provisional President of SEIU 2015

SEIU Local 2015
Jul 10, 2017 · 4 min read

We trust them to take care of our grandparents, our parents, our children, and even us. They know the most intimate information about their care recipients, including what medications need to be taken and what foods work with specific diets. We count on them to clean trach tubes, care for wounds, and tend to personal grooming needs.

They are nursing home and home care workers — they are caregivers.

And as their title states, they have chosen to spend their career providing quality care to others. However, they do so much more than that. They go above and beyond what’s expected of them, and fight to keep the long term care industry alive and robust as the need for caregivers continues to rise. For example, studies show that a total of 65% of seniors will receive the care they need at home by a mix of paid and unpaid caregivers — that means there will be a total of 4.1 million in-home care recipients in California by 2020 and 7.9 million by 2060. Additionally, over 800 new residents are expected to enter nursing homes every year over the next several years.

The need for a strong long term care industry and quality care is not only evident in the numbers I mentioned above, it’s critical for the well-being of our aging and vulnerable populations. And for care recipients and the workforce that they depend on to survive, long term care workers rallied, met with elected officials, made thousands of calls, and gathered countless signatures to raise the floor for long term care in California.

And they prevailed.

#CaregiversCount rally in Sacramento

Governor Jerry Brown and his Administration saw the rallies, heard the calls, and reviewed the signatures. He ultimately decided to make California a leader in long term care as part of his final state budget.

This is HUGE!

The victories are evidence of how unions and California are leading the resistance by protecting seniors and people with disabilities from a White House policy agenda aimed at destroying our most vulnerable populations — working families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

For nursing home workers, who have fought to improve care and staffing standards in their facilities for more than two years, Governor Brown signed SB 97 and approved a $10 million proposal that will start in July of 2018. It includes raising the amount of time spent with each nursing home patient by increasing the current minimum of 3.2 hours of care per day, also known as nursing hours per patient day (NHPPD), to 3.5 NHPPD; a number that has not been raised in the state in nearly 20 years. That increase also requires that 2.4 of those hours be performed by Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) to make sure there’s an emphasis on direct care services, such as grooming, bathing, and feeding, instead of administrative duties. This updated standard means California will now have one of the highest direct care minimum requirements in the country.

California also strengthened the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, a program designed for low-income seniors and people with disabilities to receive care at home. As part of the final budget, we lessened the financial burden on counties which further prevented cuts to vital programs that help seniors, people with disabilities, foster youth, children, and low-income families. And we advanced our ability to bargain toward strong contracts that allow home care workers to continue doing the work they love while being able to afford food, rent, and bills for their own families.

These successes are a beacon of hope in this political climate where we’ve heard a lot of threats, fake news, and hate toward working families and our vulnerable populations. In California, we play a different tune. We take care of our own. We fight, and we win.

Governor Brown’s final budget recognizes long term care as an important issue by investing in programs that protect rather than hurt care recipients and the workforce that helps them thrive — their caregivers. Most importantly, this is a step forward in our journey to build a solid long term care infrastructure for all.

Laphonza Butler, Provisional President of SEIU Local 2015

SEIU Local 2015

Written by

The largest long term care workers union in the U.S. We represent over 370K home care & nursing home workers in CA. www.seiu2015.org