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Success, Plus an Added Bonus
posted at 01:17 am on 04-12-2012
As you probably don't know, I'm a regular volunteer with the California Homemakers' Association. It's a grassroots organization for social justice, helping to connect low- and zero-income families with emergency food, medical and optical care, clothing and legal advice; as well as fighting for living wages for IHSS (In-Home Support Services) workers. For those who don't know, In-Home Support Services is a government-funded program that provides the elderly and disabled with physical assistance and household care within the environment of their own homes, allowing them to live more comfortable, dignified lives as part of the community, rather than having to be institutionalized in a nursing home or hospital.
Unfortunately, the people who provide this wonderful (and sometimes life-saving) service to their recipients are woefully overworked and underpaid. They are paid all of just $11.50 an hour to do the jobs that no one else is willing to do for these people who can't do them for themselves: Cooking, cleaning, laundry, transportation, shopping, bathing, etc. Activities that you and I do every day, and probably take for granted.
So, part of what our organization has been fighting for since it was founded is to advocate for these workers, to tell the government that they deserve to be paid living wages, especially considering the nature of their work; it's intense. It's often both physically and mentally exhausting, taking care of someone who is, to one degree or another, unable to care for themselves. Why is it that the people who sit around in offices and shoot off email and meet with talking heads all day make five- and six-figure salaries, but the people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty to help the people who need it most are paid next to nothing for their trouble? I'm asking you...
Anyway, so, the state of California has been proposing for years to cut funding to, or even completely eliminate, the IHSS program. And to us, who know how much good it does, even in its currently pathetic form, won't allow that to happen. Not as long as we're around to try to stop it, anyway.
To combat the cuts and potential elimination of the program, we've been getting people from our organization (CHA - California Homemakers' Association) and our regional sister-efforts (WSWA Oakland, WSWA Redding, WSWA Sacramento - WSWA stands for Western Service Workers' Association) and going to the capitol in Sacramento, to lobby the IHSS-related hearings, demanding that the legisature oppose the various proposals to cut funding to the program, cut the number of hours care-givers can work, and to raise the hourly wage for IHSS workers to something they can live on.
That's what we did once again, today; and it was a success. This morning, we left, making the two-hour drive to Sacramento, and stuck around through several hours of talking heads to lobby in favor of IHSS caregiver and recipient rights. Today, the Board of Health and Human Sevices was voting on whether or not to cut 20% of the in-home care hours, and to potentially eliminate pay for IHSS caregivers who lived with their recipients in order to provide 24-hour care.
We successfully stopped both proposals.
The board voted against the 20% reduction in service hours, and voted against the elimination of pay to live-in caregivers.
And we were only there for 4 and 1/2 hours this time, instead of 7, like last time.
Plus, as an additional bonus, I got to spend the day hanging around downtown Sacramento with a cute girl. Double win. She seemed to enjoy my company, too. It was almost like a mini-date when just the two of us walked two blocks to get coffee at Starbuck's after the hearing.