I am an in-home care worker and vice president of a union called United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW), which is a member of the Service Employees International Union. Currently, I and over 120,000 other in-home caregivers are negotiating with Los Angeles County to win a living wage and better future for home-care workers. As testimony to the need for a living wage, here is my story.
Just over 19 years ago, I started taking care of my grandmother. She already had a home-care worker but I would help with errands, help around the house and just thought to myself that after all she had done for me, this was the least I could do for her. From the moment I started taking care of her, I knew that home care was my calling.
Growing up, I was an only child and my mother was an only child too. Family was very important to us. Looking back at my childhood, I realized that the values my mother and grandmother instilled in me had everything to do with my career path.
After taking care of my grandmother part-time, I looked for, and found, my own client. He was a family friend and when he began treatment for cancer, I became his primary caregiver. By taking on his care, I was able to prevent him from going into a convalescent home and give him a sense of family.
Since then, I have always had a client. I have cared for elders with cancer, dementia and even a 27-year-old who was bipolar. I was trusted with their lives and their well-beings. It was my commitment to them to keep them living independently at home and put smiles on their faces as they woke up in the morning.
To me, this was the right job to take – to care for others who couldn’t care for themselves and who didn’t have family to help them. Although I love what I do, my commitment to caregiving leaves me making only $9 an hour. While that’s higher when compared to the years I worked for less than $4 per hour, it’s still not enough; it’s still not a living wage.
As a mother with three children and four grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t want to give them more than I can. My children are struggling to get good jobs in this economy and I wish I could help.
I can’t tell you enough how much every cent counts, how much a living wage would mean to me and my family and all the families of caregivers like myself. I know the work they do and I know how hard it is.
I invite you to stand united with myself and my co-workers in our efforts to win a future for in-home care and a living wage of $9.65 per hour. To ensure that L.A. County hears our message loud and clear, please add your name to our online petition by clicking HERE.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of home care workers and those we care for.
This article originally appeared on The Frying Pan.