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WA Caregivers Hit Roadblocks in Bargaining with State

Caregivers in Washington state were able to secure an additional $2.56 an hour in hazard pay for July, August and September. (SEIU 775)
Caregivers in Washington state were able to secure an additional $2.56 an hour in hazard pay for July, August and September. (SEIU 775)
July 30, 2020

SEATTLE -- In-home caregivers known as Individual Providers are concerned about what budget shortfalls from COVID-19 will mean for bargaining with Washington state.

Individual Providers (IPs) help people with disabilities stay in their homes, but they often struggle financially.

Gina Denton is an IP and member of the bargaining team for Service Employees International Union, Local 775. She's fighting to keep raises on the table, saying some caregivers are going to food banks in order to stay afloat during the pandemic.

"There have been many, many caregivers sounding off that they're going to have to figure something out," Denton said. "They're going to have to look at a different job somewhere else -- something that actually will pay -- to be able to afford to have a home to live in and food to eat."

Denton said a lack of caregivers ultimately hurts clients. IPs did secure an additional $3 an hour in hazard pay for May and June and $2.56 an hour for hours worked in July, August and September.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it can't comment on ongoing negotiations.

IPs say they've also had a hard time securing enough personal protective equipment. Denton said she requested PPE but never received it.

"I am hearing from caregivers that did receive 'the package,' as it's called, and it's like 10 masks, 10 pairs of gloves, etc. Well, that's not going to last very long," Denton said.

The state said it received federal funding for PPE and provided 31-day supplies.

Rhonda Parker is also an IP and member of the union's bargaining team. She said caregivers save the state money by helping people remain at home, rather than in congregate-care facilities or other arrangements. She added that caregiving is a calling.

"We put everybody else in front of us," Parker said. "We're here to take care of people, and that's what we do. And I don't know about everybody else, but I know I love my job and I love taking care of people, and there isn't anything else I would imagine doing."

Disclosure: SEIU 775 contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA