I'm one of nearly 18,000 home care workers who provide vital care to approximately 21,600 low-income seniors and adults and children with disabilities in Alameda County.
The work we do often involves assisting our clients with bathing, feeding, toileting, transportation to doctors' appointments, ensuring medications are taken on time and in the proper dosages, and providing a safe environment to avoid falls.
It's through the work we do that our older parents, grandparents, and adults and children with disabilities are able to live safely in their home with dignity rather than being placed in an institution. We provide critical care that saves lives and millions of dollars in medical bills.
Simply put, it's our job to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.
Yet, home care workers in Alameda County have gone without a pay increase for nearly six years and have been working without a contract with the county since last September.
Being that we currently make just $11.50 an hour, providing the basics for our families is difficult as we all know the cost of living has only gotten more expensive. We have faced these rising costs with no increase in pay.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has the authority to do something about this inequity and it is long past time for supervisors to act.
Recently, many of my fellow caregivers and I attended a budget hearing at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. We waited nearly five hours to share with the supervisors the choices we must make between paying rent or paying our utilities due to our current wages.
As we waited, we looked at budget pie charts describing where million and millions of county dollars were to be spent. But not one dime was budgeted toward a pay increase for us.
This doesn't add up.
Every year, home care workers save Alameda County taxpayers millions of dollars because the care we provide is four to seven times less expensive than institutional care. And with federal and state governments covering approximately 65 percent of our wages, this makes our program a smart investment. But even more important than cost savings is that the work we do as home care providers saves lives.
At the recent county budget and finance meeting, a home care recipient shared the important role the home care program and his caregiver plays in his life and in his ability to live safely at home. In his testimony, he said his caregiver has given him back his dignity.
Is it too much to ask that home care workers be treated with the same dignity by the county that we provide to those we care for? That we receive a fair wage increase so we can continue to do this vital work while being able to cover the basic expenses of life?
It's no secret it takes more than $11.50 an hour to do so in the Bay Area. We need our county supervisors to wake up and tell the county's negotiator we need a decent wage increase.
We're not asking for the world, just the opportunity to live in dignity ourselves.
Brenda Jackson is a home care worker and Vice President of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers. She is a resident of Oakland.