At-home caregivers in Washington state have experienced a boost in wages to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new campaign, ‘Time for $20’, is urging lawmakers to make the pay increase permanent.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 775’s “Time for $20” campaign calls on lawmakers to raise hourly wages for workers who care for people in their homes and long-term care facilities in this year’s budget.
Julie Sparkman, a home-care aide who looks after children who mostly have underlying health conditions, was diagnosed with cancer last year.
“There was no time to put off what needed to be done and if it hadn’t been for hazard pay, I don’t know how I would have kept living indoors,” Sparkman recounted. “Honestly. I took every paycheck that I got and paid a month’s worth of rent because I knew I would be out of work for some time.”
Hazard pay put about an extra $3 per hour into caregivers’ pockets. The temporary increase was set to expire at the end of 2021 for individual providers, but SEIU Local 775 got it extended through March. With the session scheduled to end in March, state lawmakers are beginning to craft the budget.
Sparkman explained fortunately the cancer was caught in time, in what she called the best of a bad scenario, but her situation is not unique.
“I know that there are other people walking around right now in a scenario similar to that for whom immediate action will be the only thing that saves their lives,” Sparkman asserted.
Sparkman added workers need to be at their best, so they can best care for the state’s most vulnerable population.
“It translates into safer clients, which is why our jobs exist in the first place,” Sparkman contended. “And if we can’t take care of ourselves, then how are we taking care of anyone else?”
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.
The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.