Every day, home care workers help bathe, dress, and prepare meals for seniors and people with disabilities, allowing them to live with dignity and independence in their own homes. Yet, despite working in one of the nation’s highest-demand, fastest-growing industries, home care workers rank among the lowest-paid workers in the country today.
Now, however, as home care workers join other low-wage workers in cities across the country to demand $15 an hour and the right to a union, they’ll have a new ally standing alongside them – their clients.
One of us – Jasmin – is a home care worker in the Cleveland area. The other – Shirley – is one of Jasmin’s clients. We enjoy our working relationship and care deeply about each other. And Jasmin’s hard work makes it possible for Shirley to continue to live at home, despite being confined to a wheelchair.
We are joining together with other home care workers and clients because we have a common interest in demanding that companies and elected officials do whatever it takes to ensure that home are workers are paid a living wage and have the right to form a union.
Despite working for the same company for nearly 12 years, Jasmin is paid only $9.50 per hour and has not seen a raise in five years. To survive on such low pay, she and her 11-year-old son share a house with another woman and four children.
Jasmin’s company provides no retirement plan, paid vacation, or sick leave. If she is sick or has an emergency, she forfeits any pay for that day.
At the beginning of each week, she makes a list of expenses her paycheck will have to cover that week. She doesn’t make future plans because surviving from week to week is all she can do.
A pay raise to $15 an hour would allow Jasmin to save for her son’s education and her own retirement. She also could cut back to a 40-hour week and be at home with her son more often.
Raising pay in the home care industry is also a critical priority for aging Americans and their families across the country. As the baby boom generation ages over the next ten years, the number of people who need home care to stay out of nursing homes is going to double. Where will the home care workers come from to meet that challenge? Who will want to enter this profession for a poverty wage and little or no paid time off?
Shirley was an over-the-road truck driver, hauling loads coast to coast, until she became seriously ill and no longer able to work. She spent almost two years in a nursing home – two years of loneliness she would like to forget.
Then, thanks to home care support, she was able to resume an independent life. Jasmin helps her transfer in and out of her wheelchair, get dressed, and bathe. She does her shopping and prepares her meals. Sometimes Jasmin accompanies Shirley to doctor appointments, helping her get in and out of buildings and avoid getting hit by cars while crossing streets.
We want home care workers to be treated fairly and we want to see as many seniors as possible have the opportunity to live independently for as long as they can. United by this common goal, we’ll continue to stand together with home care workers and clients across the country until home care jobs are good jobs.
Jasmin Almodovar is a home care worker in Cleveland, Ohio. Shirley Thompson is one of her clients.