Home care workers will outline their strategy of mobilizing thousands of Nevada women, seniors and people of color to vote, which will be decisive in this election
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Gov. Sisolak will join caregivers, seniors and people with disabilities for a “Home Care Voter Turnout” event. At the event, home care workers will outline their strategy of mobilizing thousands of Nevada women, seniors and people of color to vote, which will be decisive in this election.
WHEN: Wednesday, October 12, 3 to 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: SEIU Local 1107 Office, 2250 S Rancho Drive, Las Vegas.
Caregivers say that re-electing Gov. Sisolak and Democratic legislative leaders is critical to achieving their goals of increasing access and funding for quality home care; raising the minimum wage to $15 for workers; and forming a union. The event is hosted by the union that home care workers are organizing with, SEIU Local 1107, and the Fight For $15 Action Fund.
Nevada is facing a growing crisis because it is one of the fastest-aging states in the nation but has one of the lowest funding rates for home care services. Poverty wages, a lack of benefits and systemic racism have created a dire workforce shortage, making it extremely difficult for seniors, people with disabilities and their families to find caregivers. Polling shows that, as the population ages, home care has increasingly become a central issue for voters. A recent AARP statewide survey found that nearly 80% of older voters say they will support candidates who prioritize accessible home care services.
Nevada’s home care workers have been calling for urgent solutions to this crisis, and Gov. Sisolak has stepped up. At the event, caregivers will award Gov. Sisolak with the first-ever “Home Care Voter Seal of Approval” for the major steps he has taken toward addressing their concerns. The seal of approval serves as a way to clearly highlight candidates’ records and positions on home care issues.
“I’m turning out the vote for Governor Sisolak because I want to make home care a sustainable career so caregivers can keep showing up for our clients,” said Safiyyah Abdulrahim, who has been a home care worker in Las Vegas for the past five years. “I’m a nurturing person and being a caregiver is what I’m good at, but my pay is so low, I don’t know if I can stay in this profession that I love. My clients are seniors with people with disabilities and I do everything that allows them to live in their own homes with dignity. I get them up in the morning, help them shower, get them dressed, buy groceries, cook and make sure they take their medications. Despite my important work, I only make $11 an hour and don’t have health insurance or paid sick days. I have to take on other jobs, and with the cost of everything going up, it’s still a daily struggle to provide for my three kids. We need a $15 minimum wage and the collective power of a union to help solve this emergency.”
The home care workforce is 88% women and 58% people of color, and contains disproportionate numbers of Black, Latina and Asian American Pacific Islander caregivers. They help with all the daily activities that enable seniors and people with disabilities to live at home with independence and quality of life. Because the vast majority of seniors would prefer to age at home, demand for home care services has been skyrocketing. From 2008-2018, the state’s 65 and older population increased by 57%.
However, the median wage for Nevada’s 13,000 home care workers is only about $11 an hour. In a recent survey by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, just 5% of workers reported receiving health insurance from their employer, and 16% reported receiving paid time off. Home care work has been historically devalued and wages have been held down by systemic racism and exploitation.
All of these factors have created severe difficulties with recruitment and retention. A research report by the non-partisan Guinn Center found that one out of two home care workers leave their jobs in the first year, and Nevada will need 5,300 additional personal care aides by 2026.
To begin addressing the workforce shortage, Gov. Sisolak signed Senate Bill 340 into law in June of last year, which enabled the establishment of a first in the nation Home Care Employment Standards Board. The Standards Board has brought together workers, clients and employers at the table with government officials to create a set of concrete policy solutions. Major recommendations from the board so far have included increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate for home care services, which has remained basically unchanged for 20 years, from $17.56 to $25 an hour; requiring employers to provide paid time off and job training for workers; and setting a minimum wage of $15 for caregivers.
Gov. Sisolak also proclaimed that racism is a public health crisis, acknowledging the discrimination and barriers that caregivers and clients of color have faced. In addition, he directed the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute an initial round of $500 checks to recognize workers’ sacrifices during the pandemic, and a second round to retain workers who are struggling with inflation.
Moving forward, caregivers say they are working tirelessly to re-elect Gov. Sisolak and Democratic legislative leaders so that they can continue their critical work of expanding quality home care services and ensuring good union jobs for caregivers.