A raise for care work­ers?

County su­per­vi­sors seek a pay bump for in-home helpers, to $11 from the cur­rent $9.65.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Jean Merl jean.merl@la­times.com Twit­ter: @jean­merl

Each year some 140,000 in-home work­ers take care of ap­prox­i­mately 190,000 in­firm res­i­dents of Los An­ge­les County. They help them stay out of con­va­les­cent cen­ters and other high-cost in­sti­tu­tions by do­ing light house­work, cooking, ad­min­is­ter­ing medicines and as­sist­ing with ev­ery­day tasks.

But many of those helpers say they can­not make ends meet on the cur­rent min­i­mum wage, just over $20,000 a year for full-time work.

On Wed­nes­day, two Los An­ge­les County su­per­vi­sors pro­posed giv­ing them a raise be­yond the state’s min- imum next year, although their pro­posal would not in­clude them in the boost now be­ing con­sid­ered for county work­ers and pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ees in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas.

The in-home work­ers — paid with a com­bi­na­tion of fed­eral and state money — cur­rently earn $9.65 an hour, which is sched­uled to go to $10 on Jan. 1. They have been seek­ing in­creases that would put them at $15 an hour within a few years, roughly in line with the rate hike that the city of Los An­ge­les re­cently passed along with sev­eral other lo­cal gov­ern­ments around the coun­try.

Su­per­vi­sors Mark Ri­d­ley-Thomas and Hilda So­lis plan to in­tro­duce a mo­tion at next week’s board meet­ing that calls for the in-home sup­port­ive ser­vices work­ers to re­ceive $11 an hour start­ing Feb. 1, 2016, and move to $11.18 a year later. Be­cause they are paid through a state pro­gram, the pay boost would cost the county an ad­di­tional $11.9 mil­lion in the 2015-16 fis­cal year and an ad­di­tional $30.6 mil­lion in 201617, ac­cord­ing to the mo­tion posted on the board’s web­site.

The mo­tion also calls for su­per­vi­sors to sus­pend a rule, adopted last year as a new la­bor-friendly board ma­jor­ity pre­pared to take of­fice, that re­quires a four­fifths vote on la­bor agree­ments af­fect­ing salaries and benefits. If the board sus­pends that rule, it will take just three votes to ap­prove the pay raise for the in-home work­ers.

The raises for the in­home work­ers would be con­tin­gent upon the state con­tin­u­ing to pay its 65% of the costs. The state is to take over con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions for the in-home work­ers on July 1, so the county must act be­fore then if it wishes to join Alameda and Ven­tura coun­ties, which reached pay set­tle­ments ear­lier.

Of­fi­cials of the union rep­re­sent­ing the work­ers hailed the two su­per­vi­sors’ pro­posal Wed­nes­day.

“This mo­tion rep­re­sents a victory for L.A. County home care providers in our work to cre­ate a path­way to earn­ing $15 an hour and would be a sig­nif­i­cant first step in the county’s com­mit­ment to lift­ing all work­ers out of poverty as it con­sid­ers an in­crease in its min­i­mum wage,” Laphonza But­ler, pres­i­dent of the SEIU United Long Term Care Work­ers, said in a state­ment.

The union has been push­ing the board to in­clude the work­ers in the min­i­mum wage boost pro­posal ten­ta­tively sched­uled for a June 23 vote. It has been bring­ing mem­bers down­town to speak at weekly board meet­ings and on Tues­day de­liv- ered 50,000 signatures from peo­ple sup­port­ive of their quest for a $15 wage.

But county bud­get of­fi­cials said a raise to $15.25 an hour would cost tax­pay­ers an ad­di­tional $374.1 mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2017-18.

Ri­d­ley-Thomas said Wed­nes­day the mo­tion is an at­tempt to bal­ance what work­ers de­serve with the state’s re­stric­tions and the county’s bud­get con­straints.

“We sim­ply can­not de­lay our push to help bring home­care providers out of poverty,” Ri­d­ley-Thomas said, while not­ing that there are lim­its to what the county can do be­cause the state has the most ju­ris­dic­tion.

“Still, it is im­per­a­tive that the County of Los An­ge­les do its share to pick up some of the cost to help raise th­ese work­ers’ wages and get them on a path to $15 an hour.”

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

L.A. COUNTY home care work­ers rally for higher wages in April. Un­der their cur­rent pay, a full-time worker earns about $20,000 a year.

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