St. Louis home care workers gain support for $15 and a union
Pastor Jon Stratton of Trinity Episcopal Church, joined other community leaders vowing to support St. Louis home care workers in their fight for $15 and a union during a town hall meeting last week at the church.
The town hall was one of 20 that have taken place across the country since late February with home care workers reaching out to elected officials, community leaders and members of the clergy to build support for their growing movement for higher pay.
“This is a fight we all have to be engaged in if we are going see the changes that need to happen,” said Aaron Barton, a home care worker with Consumer Directed Services. “The home care workers in this city deserve good pay for the work that we do and the people who rely on us should be able to know they are receiving the highest quality care they can."
Home care workers at the meeting held signs that read, “We Care for St. Louis,” and chanted “What do we need? $15! When do we need it? Now!”
According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, 1.9 million home care workers would get a raise if industry pay was lifted to $15 an hour.
The average worker would see a bump in pay of $8,000, according to the report, generating $3.9 to $6.6 billion in new economic activity.
Across the country, about two million home care workers provide daily support services for older Americans and people with disabilities, including bathing, dressing, helping them use the bathroom and preparing meals.
There are approximately 7,000 home care workers in St. Louis.
“We rely on attendants to preserve our independence,” said Mary Woods, a client of Consumer Directed Services. “Winning $15 and a union would go a long way to stabilizing this much needed workforce that is so vital to our community.”
Despite doing the work that allows seniors and people with disabilities to live with dignity, home care is among the lowest-paid jobs in the country.
The median wage is just $9.57 per hour. For someone working full-time, that’s $383 a week before taxes, or just $1,531 a month – barely enough to meet living expenses like rent utilities, food, gas and child care.
And these figures don’t account for the unpredictable and part-time hours that reduce home care wages even further, leaving the average home care worker with median annual earnings of just $17,000 a year.
While average wages for home care attendants in Missouri are above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, “there are all sorts of reasons why in practice payment actually falls below minimum wage,” said Abby Marquand, director of policy research for the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.
Home care is not the only low-paying sector of the American economy, but its role is significant because it is one of the top employers of women and is projected to continue growing.
Home care is the fastest-growing jobs in the country.
FIGHT FOR $15
The Fight For $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation started with fast food workers in New York City in November 2012, spreading to more than 190 cities in every region of the country.
It also has spread to beyond fast food to include home care, airport and retail workers.
Home care workers in Kansas City also held a town hall last week.