Elected officials and community organizations also showed their support on social media
San Bernardino — Today, about 200 caregivers, community activists, and seniors and people with disabilities rallied in the streets outside the County Board of Supervisors meeting calling on the county to prioritize the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program that over 30,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities rely on to survive and live at home. The rally followed a March 5 bargaining session between caregivers and county representatives where the county again declined to invest in the IHSS Program.
The IHSS Program is the county’s largest employer with 26,461 IHSS caregivers who help seniors and people with disabilities with administering medication, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and grooming and bathing.
“Without my caregiver it’s impossible for me to do anything,” Ivan Contreras, who is physically disabled and is a care recipient with the IHSS Program, shared at today’s rally.
As the county’s demand for in-home care is projected to increase, caregivers have shared with the county the importance in investing in a workforce that is currently struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage. A caregiver with the IHSS Program, for example, earns on average $17,820 a year yet a two-working parent family with two children requires a $66,919 annual income. The county has not approved wage increases for IHSS caregivers in over 9 years.
“We are here to show the county that we mean business,” said Marguerite Johnson, who provides full-time care to her adult grandson who is physically and mentally handicapped. “The Supervisors say that home care workers and seniors do not matter to them and we are here to show them that we mean business and we want a fair contract.”
According to the CA State Plan on Aging, the senior population (60+) in the county is expected to increase 107% to 550,488 in less than 12 years which workers say is an urgent matter as there is no robust long term care infrastructure in place to support these seniors. Workers are concerned about the looming care crisis that could result in a worker shortage and IHSS care recipients going without the care they need. Receiving livable wages to make ends meet would allow caregivers to continue to do the work they do and further, it would attract more people to the job.
The workers want the county to bargain in good faith and invest in the IHSS Program. They say they will not stop protesting and calling out the Board of Supervisors until they meet at the table with intentions to approve a contract for caregivers that puts them on a path to $15 an hour.
“We are here today to demand action,” said Kim Evon, Executive Vice President of SEIU 2015. “For nine years the county leadership has made it clear that seniors, men, women, and children with disabilities, and the caregivers that take care of them everyday are not a priority. That changes today. We are here to demand the kind of action required to do actually do something about the care crisis facing us in this county and across the state.”
San Bernardino County caregivers with the IHSS Program will continue to bargain the terms of their contract and the needs of the IHSS Program with San Bernardino County representatives. The next bargaining session has yet to be scheduled.
Elected officials and community organizations also showed their support for the IHSS Program on social media:
Senator Connie Leyva
Assemblymember Eloise Reyes
Assemblymember James Ramos
United Domestic Workers (UDW) Home Care Union
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1428
Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ)
Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC) Legal Center