Home care aides are rallying in Olympia today to urge legislators to approve a new contract that would give these low-wage workers their first raise in five years. The result of an arbitrators decision, the new contract would give Washington's home care givers an annual 50 cents an hour raise over the next two years, increasing the current starting wage from $10/hour to $11/hour by July of 2015.
According to SEIU Healthcare 775NW, real wages have declined by 20 percent over the past five years, leaving two thirds of home care aides living near or below the federal poverty threshold. Former Governor Chris Gregoire included the new contract in her preliminary budget proposal, but it must be approved by the Legislature to take effect.
In support of the wage increase, the union released the results of an Elway poll that showed more than 70 percent support from voters, including 76 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Independents and 64 percent of Republicans. "Voters recognize the need to lift caregivers out of poverty,” SEIU 775 secretary-treasurer Adam Glickman said in a press release.
Yeah, sure, it's just a poll. But home care aides enjoy broad public support as demonstrated by their union's impressive track record of supporting their interests via initiative. If lawmakers don't approve this minimal wage increase, voters likely will, only making next year's supplemental budget all the more difficult to hammer out.