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Wash. Caregivers Reach Milestone in Fight for $15

In-home caregiver Desirae Hernandez says her recent pay raise will help ease the burden of living paycheck to paycheck. (Courtesy of Desirae Hernandez)
In-home caregiver Desirae Hernandez says her recent pay raise will help ease the burden of living paycheck to paycheck. (Courtesy of Desirae Hernandez)
February 1, 2019

SEATTLE – Today marks a major achievement for Washington state caregivers in the "Fight for 15." In-home caregivers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 775 will receive their first paychecks that reflect wages of at least $15 an hour.

Workers started earning the new wage on January 1st, with the most experienced receiving more than $18 an hour.

Desirae Hernandez gave up her job to take care of her father – and after her son was born, became a caregiver. With the pay raise, Hernandez says she won't have to make tough decisions like choosing between medicine and car payments, and could even save to take her son on a trip.

"He said, 'Mom, I know we're not rich with money right now – we are rich with love – but one day when we get rich with money, can we go to Disneyland?' And so, that's one of things that I'm hopeful for [with] this raise – to save a little bit of money to do something like that with him," says Hernandez.

SEIU 775, the State of Washington and individual providers agreed to a contract in 2017 to raise workers' wages every six months for two years. The union represents more than 45,000 long-term caregivers in the Evergreen State and Montana.

Hernandez says fair compensation is crucial for keeping people in this much-needed profession.

"It's hard to get enough people to be able to do this job because they could be making more money somewhere else," says Hernandez. “And that's sad, because it's going to end up costing people dignity and our state so much more money if we can't keep this profession filled with certified people."

The Fight for 15 has swept the nation since New York fast-food workers in 2012 demanded living wages. Since then, 22 million workers across the country have secured $68 million dollars in wages, according to the National Employment Law Project.

SeaTac and Seattle were among the first cities to adopt $15-an-hour minimum wages.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA