Tag Archives: health care workers

Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Massachusetts home care workers
first in nation to win $15/hour starting wage!

Boston – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.

According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.

Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.

“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”

“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”

The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.

After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.

Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.

Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers also united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement and the local #WageAction coalition, helping to kick off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State with rallies in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester on June 12th, 2014.

Home care workers took to the streets again on April 14th, 2015 as part of a massive Fight for $15 mobilization that drew thousands to the streets of Boston. That Boston-based action served as the kickoff for similar coordinated protests in more than 200 cities and 50 countries across the globe.

Caregivers say they are excited that the picket action they had planned for their current contract expiration date of June 30th can now serve as a celebration of this achievement and the spirit of cooperation that made it possible.

“This is an inspiring moment for home care workers, but also for our children – and our children’s children,” said a beaming Rosario Cabrera, a home care worker from New Bedford, MA whose children Kendra, age 14, and Daniel, age 12, were with her at the negotiating session as workers cheered the new agreement with the Baker administration. “I am so proud that I can show my children and someday tell my grandchildren that I was part of this moment in history, that I was part of a movement for social justice. We want all home care workers to win $15 per hour – and to do it first in Massachusetts fills us with pride. It is evidence of what people can do when we organize and negotiate in good faith to reach common ground.”

“Not only is this going to help the PCAs, but this is going to help us as consumers because it’s going to be easier to hire an attendant now that they can receive a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard, age 31, a paraplegic consumer who lives in Brighton, MA. “In the past, consumer employers have had issues with getting PCAs simply because the wage wasn’t enough. This is going to make a huge difference in our lives, as well.”

In negotiations, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement extending the current collective bargaining agreement and establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Workers will receive an immediate .30 cent raise effective July 1, 2015, a portion of which will be paid retroactively once the contract is ratified.

A new round of discussions will then begin no later than January 1, 2016 to solidify details on the series of wage increases that will elevate PCAs to the $15 mark by the agreed upon date of July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, PCAs across the state will vote by mail ballot on ratifying the contract extension and the terms therein, including the commitment to establish a statewide minimum $15 starting rate.

*******

Representing more than 52,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts and nearly 400,000 workers across the East Coast, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union.

Healthcare workers launch statewide push for reforms that would rein in big health insurance payments to the highest-priced hospitals in Mass.

BOSTON – Healthcare workers are launching a statewide push for reforms that would rein in big health insurance payments to some of the highest-priced hospitals in Massachusetts.

For years, inflated payments to a small group of academic medical centers have been cited as a major driver of higher consumer premiums and as a threat to community hospitals. Many community hospitals are struggling under a health care system that pays them exponentially less than other providers for the delivery of the same services at the same level of quality.

Now, members of the state’s most politically active and fastest growing union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, are putting their full support behind a bold solution that workers say could be the key to preserving services and jobs at many community hospitals around the state.

The Act to Protect Community Hospital Services & Jobs, also currently known as SB574 An Act Relative to Equitable Health Care Pricing, would reduce excessive payments to hospitals by an estimated $450-$500 million annually. An estimated $250M of the savings from the bill’s price cap would be utilized to increase the rates for community and safety net hospitals whose commercial rates fall below the 90% price floor. Another $200-$250M would be returned to consumers and employers through reductions in health insurance premiums.

Caregivers have warned that – absent decisive action by the legislature on the issue – more community hospitals in the state are destined to close. The majority of Massachusetts residents receive their care at community hospitals, yet many of those facilities have struggled financially even while the state’s wealthiest hospital network amasses nearly $7 billion in reserves.

“For too long, community and safety net hospitals have been forced to fight over the crumbs within a system that caters disproportionately to wealthy hospitals,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “The lack of equality in our hospital payment system is jeopardizing services at the community hospitals where a majority of residents receive their care. The time for reform is now. On their own, the current payment growth caps are inadequate as a policy solution. There needs to be a floor and a ceiling for these payment rates or our hospital system will be locked into a permanent state of imbalance and inequality.”

The legislation backed by the healthcare workers union would prohibit healthcare providers and private health insurance companies from entering into contracts that would pay hospitals more than 20% above the average amount paid to similar healthcare providers for the same healthcare services.

Coupled with the state’s rate cap of 3.6% annually, caregivers say creating a ceiling for payments to wealthy hospitals will help create the longer term market conditions necessary to curb increasing consumer premiums and preserve community hospital services.

The legislation would also prohibit contracts that pay hospitals less than 90% of the average amount paid to similar healthcare providers. Specialty and geographically-isolated hospitals would be explicitly exempted from the legislation’s price cap, although some will benefit from the bill’s price floor.

To drum up support for the reforms, 1199SEIU members are launching a statewide tour of more than 35 community hospital locations across the Commonwealth – including many non-union hospitals – during which 1199SEIU members and organizers will promote the new legislation at the facilities which would financially benefit from a more balanced payment system.

Hospital workers will simultaneously be recruiting hospital workers to join the union in hopes of continuing the record-setting growth seen by 1199SEIU in recent years. The union is also planning advertising and grassroots voter outreach drives to promote the reforms, including using social media and advertising to mobilize patients and voters whose local hospitals would benefit from the proposed regulatory changes.

Most of the worst paid hospitals in the Commonwealth are also community hospitals and/or disproportionate share hospitals (DSH), serving a large proportion of Medicaid and Medicare patients.

The below-average commercial rates paid to these community hospitals, combined with the relatively low rates paid by government payers, result in these important community-based providers struggling to remain open and to survive financially.