Through organizing their union, workers were empowered to lead the fight for the increases, which will help solve the workforce shortage crisis so the rapidly-aging population and people with disabilities get the services they urgently need
Minimum wage will be life-changing for the state’s 13,000 home care workers, whose pay has been stagnant at around $11 an hour for over a decade
Nevada home care workers and their union announced that they won a historic $16 minimum wage and major funding increase in the state budget, which will help ensure quality care for the state’s rapidly aging population and people with disabilities. The wage and funding increases are a groundbreaking step toward solving Nevada’s crisis-level workforce shortage which has been caused by poverty pay, a lack of basic benefits, the lingering impact of the pandemic, persistent inflation and rising compensation in other industries. The minimum wage will be life-changing for the state’s 13,000 home care workers, whose pay has been stagnant at around $11 an hour for over a decade.
Through forming their union, workers were empowered to lead the fight for the legislative victories. In recent months, hundreds of workers at multiple home care agencies across the state have voted to unionize and thousands more are moving toward elections in one of the largest organizing efforts in recent history.
“I do this work because I have a deep love for helping people, especially our dear seniors,” said Sheila Hall, a home care worker in Las Vegas. “It’s especially rewarding to nourish my clients with delicious food, make sure they’re healthy and lift their spirits when they are feeling lonely. But even though we devote our lives to caring for others’ family members, we can’t care for ourselves and our own families. Because of my ridiculously low wages, I have past due bills for electricity and water which I can’t pay off. That’s why I voted to join the union, so we could have a strong, united voice for change. The $16 minimum wage will help recognize and acknowledge our hard work and attract more workers to this vital field.”
A “Silver Tsunami” has been crashing over Nevada as the state’s older population grows much faster than the rest of the country. There are currently more than 438,000 Nevadans over the age of 65, and because the vast majority would strongly prefer to live at home, demand for services has been skyrocketing. But families increasingly cannot find caregivers for their loved ones due to severe difficulties with the recruitment and retention of workers. Despite being one of the fastest-aging states in the nation, Nevada has had one of the lowest funding rates for home care services. A research report by the nonpartisan 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.
The home care workforce is 85% women and 59% people of color. They help with all the daily activities that enable seniors and people with disabilities to live at home with dignity, health and well-being. Duties include bathing, feeding, taking clients to doctors appointments, grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and medication reminders.
“Home care workers have some of the most important jobs in the world – providing compassionate care for so many Nevadans – but their essential work is also some of the most underpaid,” said Senator Rochelle Nguyen, Chair of the state legislature’s Finance Sub-committee on Human Services. “Through organizing with their union, home care workers have pushed for higher pay, and I’ve been honored to advocate alongside these dedicated workers to win this major step toward a better future for themselves, their families, their clients and their communities. This is a shining example of how to create concrete, positive change from the ground up.”
Workers built a grassroots movement and methodically carried out a series of strategic steps to accomplish the legislative victories. Three years ago, workers began organizing throughout the state, speaking out powerfully in the press and on social media, and generating support among community allies. In 2021, workers advocated strongly to pass state Senate Bill 340, which enabled the establishment of a first-in-the nation Home Care Employment Standards Board. Workers pushed the Standards Board to pass a set of policy recommendations, including the minimum wage and funding increase. Then, workers again lobbied their legislators to pass those recommendations as part of the state budget.
The budget increases the “Medicaid Reimbursement rate” – the funding that home care employers receive for providing services – from $17 to $25 an hour, the first meaningful change in over 20 years. Most home care services in the state are delivered by private agencies funded through Medicaid. Home care workers are deeply grateful for the support of key Democratic legislators, especially Senator Nguyen, and to Governor Lombardo for signing Senate Bill 511.
With increased resources now available in the state budget, newly unionized workers are aiming to create a unified negotiation process with employers in order to set consistent job, benefit and care standards across the entire industry. Workers hope that this successful organizing and legislative strategy serves as inspiration and a model for others fighting for living wages throughout the U.S.
“I’m in awe of the passion and determination of our state’s home care workers, because they not only sacrifice to care for their clients, but have also built a grassroots movement to transform the entire system,” said Grace Vergara-Mactal, Executive Director of the state’s largest union of home care, healthcare and public service workers, SEIU Local 1107. “We have warmly welcomed hundreds of home care workers into our union, and in coming months we will welcome thousands more. United together, we will continue to work with employers, clients, advocates and elected officials to set high standards throughout the home care industry that ensure good union jobs for and quality care for all.”
SEIU Nevada Local 1107 is the largest healthcare and public service union in the state, representing nearly 20,000 workers. Together, SEIU 1107 members fight for good union jobs, quality services and a better quality of life for all working Nevadans.