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In-Home Service Workers Win County Contract

SEIU 2015 is a new chapter of the Service Employees International Union reorganized and 2015 to serve nearly 1400 in home providers of the elderly and disabled in Mendocino County.

On December 10 four of the seven members of the union's bargaining team were present as the Mendocino County Director of Health and Human Services outlined the terms of the contract agreement to the Board of Supervisors.

After several months of negotiations, the chief negotiator for the IHSS Public Authority (PA) doubled the initial wage increase proposal from $.50 to a dollar above the state mandated minimum wage of $12 an hour.

The PA also agreed to provide the union with $5000 annually to develop and run trainings on various health topics including CPR, infection control, mental health issues and autism.

The wage supplement agreed to by the County will keep caregivers’ wages $1 above the state yearly minimum wage increases until a new contract is negotiated. It is a three-year contract ending on June 30, 2022.

In January 2020 the California minimum wage will increase to $13 an hour. The additional increase to $14 an hour will occur when the contract is approved by the California Department of Social Services, a process that is expected to take two or three months.

A survey of union members taken prior to negotiations revealed that along with a wage increase, dental and vision benefits and training opportunities were high priorities. Dental and vision benefits are not included in the Affordable Care Act.

SEIU 2015 chief negotiator Cindy Fonseca presented a benefits proposal which would provide coverage to all IHSS workers who work 60 hours or more for two consecutive months. The cost to the county would be 35¢ an hour per worker.

The Public Authority stated an unwillingness to agree to a benefits package due to cost, the time it would take to work out details, and a wariness of the board members due to a successful grievance filed by the union in the past to recoup unspent money in the county coffers for members’ benefits before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

The increased wage proposal followed the Public Authority’s rejection of the benefit proposal.

As a first-time member of the bargaining team, I came to realize that the willingness to compromise is key to successful negotiation.

Supervisor John Haschak commented that the wage increase would give dignity to caregivers in affirming the value of the services provided. He added greater opportunities for training would save the county money by lowering the rate of emergency room visits and nursing home admissions. He hoped the wage increase would be an incentive to increase the number of providers to meet the needs of our growing senior population.

The board approved the contract unanimously.

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