The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to boost the wages of more than 140,000 home health-care workers.
The board voted 4-1 to approve a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis instructing county administrators to allocate $11.9 million in the 2015-16 Department of Public Social Services budget to raise wages of home health-care workers from their existing $9.65-an-hour salaries to $11 effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Salaries of the In-Home Supportive Service workers will increase to $11.18 on Feb. 1, 2017.
“IHSS providers care for and support the county’s most vulnerable residents so that they can remain safe and independent in their homes and communities, thereby avoiding higher-cost institutional settings,” according to the motion. “Despite the critical services these low-wage workers perform for the county, they are among the lowest-paid workers among the low-wage
workforce, earning a ‘poverty wage’ of $9.65 an hour, excluding health benefits, or $20,072 per year.
“At this wage level, many home care workers are forced to rely on public assistance programs to make ends meet.”
Supervisor Don Knabe, who was the lone vote against the wage increase, introduced an alternative proposal that would also increase home-care worker salaries, but at a slower pace.
“We have a lot of things coming up as it relates to the minimum wage and other economic kinds of things that we’ve done on a slow but sure basis,” Knabe said, noting that the board is expected to consider a proposal next week to increase the county’s minimum wage.
But Ridley-Thomas said any delay would be a slap in the face to the workers.
“It is a question of the level of tolerance for income inequality that’s at stake here,” he said. “This is the maximum that can be allowed by the state without exposing the county to risk from a fiscal point of view and at the same time it gives a clear indication to these 140,000 workers that they matter and that they deserve the dignity of a decent compensation commitment with what they do to help people we love and care for. That’s what’s at stake here.”
Paid through a state program, the home care workers would not benefit from an increase in the city or county’s minimum wage.
Home care workers have been pushing the county to boost their salaries to $15 an hour. Earlier this month, dozens of the workers represented by the Service Employees International Union-United Long-Term Care Workers rallied at a Board of Supervisors meeting to state their case. Dozens more showed up Tuesday.
Workers told the board about the work they do caring for the elderly and disabled, some of whom are members of their own families, and how hard it is to make ends meet on $9.65 an hour.
Union research shows that 81 percent of the in-home care providers live in poverty, 33 percent rely on public assistance and 18 percent depend on food stamps to feed their families.
A study released by union leaders concluded that a raise to $15 an hour would generate $768 million in local economic activity and support the creation of 6,000 new full-time jobs.
“Today is a victorious day for L.A. County IHSS providers as we celebrate the greatest wage increase we’ve ever won,” Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU-ULTCW, said.