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Labor & Economy

Who Will Care for Our Caregivers?




Julie Chow

By Julie Chow

In a soon-to-be released report, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research states, “Paid caregivers caring for recipients of Medi-Cal fare the worst in monthly income, job stability, home ownership, health insurance coverage, delays in obtaining medical care and food security. Data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey suggest that paid Medi-Cal caregivers face hidden costs and are at risk for continued economic uncertainty.”

As a caregiver for over 10 years, and as part of my union’s Los Angeles contract committee, I can tell you that the statement above is more than accurate. We’ve heard from hundreds of our caregivers — their top concerns are job/wage security and access to quality health care. So, as we continue to negotiate with Los Angeles County, these are two of our top priorities.

We recognize that this economy has affected more than just ourselves; we see it in our neighbors, at our churches and all around our communities. As we prepared for negotiations we sought out a solution that would not only uplift caregivers from $9 per hour up to a living wage of $9.65 and provide them with access to quality health care, but also bring millions of dollars into our local communities. Our work with Beacon Economics confirms that the 65-cent increase will boost economic output in Los Angeles County by $99.8 million and generate more than 700 new jobs.

Before becoming a caregiver, I supervised a wholesale company’s warehouse , making considerably more money and spending more of it on my children and all of our family needs. Once I took the job of being my mother’s caregiver, I had to cut back on everything; from groceries to clothing, and more. For many caregivers, this means making the choice between paying rent and putting food on the table.

Finding a solution to help workers earn a living wage was so important to many of us, because we know how hard it is to make ends meet. We have seen the economic crisis first-hand in our neighborhoods and we want to better our livelihoods while ensuring that our communities received the boost as well.

Our second request, access to quality health care, is extremely important to home care workers. Every day, we are on the front lines of caring for California’s most vulnerable residents. Without us, many of them would not be safe or healthy at home, but when we are ill, we don’t have the ability to call in sick. Our health is as important as our jobs.

I know that what we are asking for is fair, both economically and socially. Being a caregiver is hard work and it is not for everyone, it takes a certain type of person – caregivers need kindness, patience and compassion. While caregiving is not glamorous, it is of the utmost importance that the elderly and disabled are taken care of in their own homes, with dignity and independence.

We hope the county will continue to support our efforts for a living wage and access to quality health care. The economic solution we have put forth is based on solid research, and will have a lasting and positive impact on our lives and our communities.

To support our goals, visit our website and SIGN the petition.

Julie Chow is the vice president and an executive board member of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULCTW). She lives in the City of Los AngelesChinatown community.

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