SEIU Begins to Recruit Ventura County Home Health Care Aides to Join Union, Hopes to Boost Wages
About 200 home health care aides in Ventura County have joined the Service Employees International Union as part of a nationwide campaign to unionize home health care aides, the Los Angeles Times reports. SEIU officials said that they hope to recruit 600 additional home health care aides to join the union by early summer and hold an election to allow the union to begin negotiations with the state to improve wages and benefits. The state established a program in 1973 that covers the cost of home health care aides for low-income seniors and disabled residents, which allows patients to receive care at home rather than in nursing homes. According to supporters, the program saves the state millions of dollars a year in public health funds by "keeping indigent patients out of costly care facilities." However, the Times reports that home health care aides earn wages "often insufficient to keep them out of poverty or off public assistance." The program, which receives funds from federal, state and county governments, pays home health care aides about $7 per hour to provide patients "day-to-day help" for activities such as cooking and cleaning. The Times reports that the program has "created a vast low-wage work force across the state," which has become "a ready target for unionization efforts." SEIU officials hope to increase wages for home health care aides in Ventura County to $9.50 per hour and provide health care coverage from the county or another provider.
The state's fiscal year 2000-2001 budget includes a provision that would increase wages for the state's 200,000 home health care aides, provided that "certain revenue targets were met," the Times reports. Under the provision, home health care aides would earn $9.50 per hour in the next fiscal year and $11.50 per hour by FY 2004-2005. However, Gov. Gray Davis (D) has "yet to commit" to raising next year's wages, and Ventura County, which covers about 22.4% of the cost of wages for home health care aides, also must agree to the increase (Alvarez, Los Angeles Times, 3/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.