FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Fresno County long-term care providers have been advocating for higher wages for months, negotiating with Fresno County in a bid to get higher wages and better benefits.
The union representing In-Home Supportive Services workers, the SEIU 2015, has been campaigning since August – and earlier this month resulted in members of the union making themselves heard in the neighborhoods of members of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
But what does the union want – and how far is Fresno County willing to go in the negotiations?
For clarity, the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program is a locally managed state-required program that is available to aged, blind, or disabled people who receive Medi-Cal. In Fresno County, the program works with Medi-Cal-eligible persons to help hire care providers. SEIU Local 2015 is the largest union in the state, representing nearly 450,000 long-term care workers (home care, skilled nursing facility, and assisted living center workers) throughout California.
In recent months, members of SEIU 2015 have been rallying together calling for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to provide them with a livable wage of $20 an hour and access to healthcare.
SEIU 2015 officials claim Fresno County long-term care workers currently do not have adequate benefits or livable wages, being paid $16.10 an hour (60 cents above the state’s minimum wage of $15.50). Union officials add that the Fresno County Board of Supervisors is threatening to take away healthcare for the county’s IHSS providers.
According to the union, a recent poll of in-home care workers in Fresno County revealed:
- 4 out of every 5 (>80%) reported working multiple jobs to make ends meet
- More than 40% experience consistent food insecurity, forced to rely on CalFresh and/or food banks
- Nearly 55% have difficulty paying their mortgage or rent each month, with many reporting that they are sometimes or always late with their payments
- Nearly 60% spend at least 50% of their income on housing, and about 20% spend more than 75%
- More than 55% are sometimes or often unable to access medication because they cannot afford the cost of prescriptions.
After members attended various hearings, rallied outside the Fresno Hall of Records, and campaigned through supervisors’ neighborhoods, Fresno County provided a statement to address the various issues brought up by union workers.
To address their concerns for a liveable wage, the Fresno County Public Authority is proposing to increase workers’ hourly rate by $1, increasing the total to $1.60 above the state’s current minimum wage. This proposed increase would provide a yearly wage increase of $1,680. Officials specify that the dollar increase is made up of an 85-cent health benefit boost – and an additional 15-cent wage supplement.
County officials state out of the 22,480 care providers, only 10% receive benefits through the Union’s health plan, which is funded through the 85-cent benefit. The Union’s sponsored health plan is currently only available through Covered California but- will be available as a Medi-Cal managed care plan beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
County officials add that the state is changing their Medi-Cal rules to not count property value (such as life insurance, bank accounts, homes, and vehicles), meaning more people would be eligible for Medi-Cal. That change is due to start January 1, 2024.
When asked for a statement detailing the union’s side of the negotiation table, representatives for the SEIU 2015 say they do not disclose the details of their proposals during an active negotiation process.
“But what we can share is that we are fighting to lift home care workers out of poverty by increasing their wages and protecting their current, unfortunately limited, healthcare benefits.”SEIU 2015
Both sides continue to negotiate.