July 8, 2015
Boston, MA – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon June 25th as a decades-long struggle for union recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.
An agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) will become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.
“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible.”
The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law. After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win the right to organize, 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England.
Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.
“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”
Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement kicking off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State. Throughout 2014 and up to the present, home care workers were regularly demonstrating for a raise. A massive Fight for $15 mobilization took place that drew thousands to attend several rallies in Boston. Finally in negotiations during late June, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018.
“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”
*** 1199SEIU represents more than 52,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts and nearly 400,000 workers across the East Coast.