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WA Caregivers Celebrate Pay Raise at Convention

PHOTO: More than 52,000 people in Washington who need assistance with their daily health and personal care depend on home-care workers. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: More than 52,000 people in Washington who need assistance with their daily health and personal care depend on home-care workers. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
September 6, 2013

SEATTLE – There's good news and bad for the hundreds of people attending the annual convention of SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest.

It's the labor union for home care aides and long-term care workers. They're celebrating getting their first pay raise since 2008, in a new contract with the state.

Next year in July, their starting pay will increase to $11 an hour. However, since the recession, the state has cut home care service hours for many.

Caregiver Sharon Kitchel-Purdue of Olympia says the pay and the hours of care go hand in hand.

"This is just a heartfelt mission for me,” she says. “I know that we deserve to have quality care for our clients, and our caregivers deserve to be a profession, and to get themselves out of poverty."

Workers at the high end of the new contract, with seven years or more of experience, will be able to make a little less than $15 an hour.

At the convention, caregivers also are expected to vote on a resolution to support the efforts of other low-wage workers for better pay, including fast-food employees.

Sure to come up at the convention is the looming shortage of caregivers for the state's aging population. One in five Washingtonians will be age 65 or older within 20 years, and smaller families will mean greater needs for paid caregiving.

Kitchel-Purdue says it's a challenge to recruit people to jobs that many consider too demanding for the pay.

"Our training that we are providing now is a very good plus for us,” she says. “But it is very scary for me to think that our wages are so low that we are not going to be able to attract a next generation of coming up and taking care of things."

There are more than 43,000 members of SEIU Healthcare in the state, and they serve more than 52,000 seniors and people with disabilities.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA