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Washington Home-Healthcare Providers Negotiate a Raise

In-home healthcare providers have negotiated a new contract in Washington state that they say helps legitimize their profession. (Luke McGuff/Flickr)
In-home healthcare providers have negotiated a new contract in Washington state that they say helps legitimize their profession. (Luke McGuff/Flickr)
August 22, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. - In the latest round of contract negotiations, Washington state agreed to the biggest pay raise yet for in-home healthcare providers. By the end of their contract in 2019, the average wage for caregivers paid by the state will top $16 an hour.

Melissa Ringer, a Washington State Individual Provider and member of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 bargaining team, said the new contract legitimizes her profession in ways she hasn’t experienced before.

"It's a respectable field. It's something that I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to say that I do anymore - because I felt like we were considered glorified babysitters,” Ringer said. "These wins help caregivers to produce better caregivers."

The state-contracted caregivers represented in this contract work with elderly patients and children with disabilities, and includes some parents who provide care for their adult children with disabilities. Ringer said they'll now look to the Washington Legislature to ensure the new contract is funded for 2017.

The contract also includes an increase in paid time off, doubles the retirement funding from the state, and ensures a raise of 50 cents per hour for caregivers who complete certain advanced training.

As the average age of Washington's population rapidly rises, Ringer said politicians are changing how they see at-home caregivers.

"The Baby Boomers are aging out, and a lot of our politicians are now seeing this real world, what's happening with their families,” she said. "Family members need to be taken care of and we want good, quality caregivers to go in your home, and this contract helps us to produce those."

SEIU Healthcare 775 represents about 34,000 individual providers in Washington state.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA