Hundreds Rally For State Action to Improve Home Care Jobs and Care


Lack of good jobs has created a crisis for Michigan families


LANSING — Hundreds of home care workers joined senior and disability rights advocates at a rally at the state Capitol building Wednesday, championing legislation that would improve jobs and access to care by restoring home healthcare workers’ right to form a union and creating a state authority to help with self-directed care. Thousands of Michigan families are without options for home care because too many workers have left — or cannot afford to join — this workforce.

“I have been a home care worker for the last 15 years… and the last time I got a raise was 13 years ago. And as a home care worker, I’m asking the Michigan Legislature to stand with us to ensure that we can access the training and legal protections and rights we need,” said Phyllis Pride of Ecorse. “Allow us to form a union. Every worker — no matter what they do — must be able to join a union and have a voice in their work.”


State Senators Kevin Hertel and Sylvia Santana, who serve as chair and vice-chair of the chamber’s health policy committee, are co-sponsoring bills that would restore bargaining rights for approximately 31,000 workers who provide care through the Home Help program. The workers’ union rights were stripped away in 2012, and since then, Michigan has fallen behind, paying home care workers some of the lowest wages in the country.


“I am proud to sponsor legislation that will restore bargaining rights for individual Home Help providers, and create a public authority,” said Sen. Hertel. “An authority for home care workers means better care for seniors and persons with disabilities, and saves taxpayer dollars by allowing people to avoid the expense of a nursing home.”


Disability and senior rights advocates say the legislation, House Bills 790 and 791, which were introduced Wednesday, would help address a growing and important need.


Michigan is in a home care crisis as the senior population booms and will have 115,500 home care job openings from 2020–2030. Training, better benefits and higher pay for home care workers through a Home Help authority, along with restoring their bargaining rights, will bring caregivers to these jobs, encourage continuity of care, relieve the burden of the high cost of a nursing home, and enable better health at home. Michigan’s older population is above the national average. By 2030, the retirement age population will grow by more than 30% — 450,000 people.


“These seniors, some of whom have seen everything from world wars to a worldwide pandemic, deserve to be cared for with dignity,” said Alison Hirschel, director of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative. “Seniors need to be able to access the quality care they need when they need it and they’d prefer to get that help at home.”


An estimated 23 percent of the state’s population has at least one disability, said Jill Gerrie, the project coordinator for The Arc Michigan. The nonprofit advocates for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD).


“There must be a public policy developed that serves people with IDD so they are not waitlisted for long term support and services,” said Gerrie. “Having the infrastructure and authority helps address a health crisis for our IDD community, and we strongly support this legislation.”


Laura Hall of the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition said the organization strives to create a society where individuals with disabilities can thrive without facing discrimination or barriers.


“Part of the equation for “full inclusion” for disabled people is having access to the care we need in our homes,” Hall said. “I should know: I use direct care worker services to get to work every day and to live independently.”


Home care workers across the country are winning legislative changes to improve care and jobs in their states that stabilize the workforce. SEIU Local 2015 home care workers in San Francisco recently negotiated a union contract that includes a path to earn $25.50 — the highest home care wage in California including. In Illinois, IP home care workers united in SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri reached a tentative agreement that includes raises and seniority add-ons, paid time-off for every PA, a path to retirement, and the creation of a statewide registry to match families with caregivers who best meet their needs.


Said SEIU Local 2015 member Boxinett King, “We’re ready to be an example to California — and the nation — of the power home care workers have in shaping the future of care in favor of caregivers and our recipients.”


“It’s time for Michigan to follow our lead in Illinois! If workers are supported, we can provide better support to the folks to whom we provide care,” Illinois home care worker Lillie Cleeton told the crowd.


Watch the livestream of Wednesday’s event here and find out more on Facebook.