Home health and day care workers demand raises
By Shellie Berg
By Shellie Berg
Home health care worker Paralee Hunter points to bottles of 25 medicines in a round, blue caddy, in a wooden wall hanging and in a plastic bag that are vital medications for Angela James, a diabetic and anemic.
As they sit at James table, Hunter, 60, reminds James, 35, to ingest her tablet, Cardizem, a heart medication.
Hunters position involves more than giving James important reminders: It also entails driving her to doctor appointments, taking trips to the grocery store, cooking meals, cleaning her house, assisting her with shots and writing down the foods she eats.
Hunter is one of many home health care and day care employees who belong to Service Employees International Union Local 880. Members embark daily on what they describe as grueling tasks and are fighting for better pay.
Hunter receives $7.20 per hour and helps James from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Hunter, along with several home care employees, has asked for at least $8.20 an hour and medical benefits. Its not good enough, but its a start, Hunter said.
James agrees that Hunter should receive better pay. She said Hunter is very, very helpful. I need help every day.
In July, James ascertained from her doctor that her diabetes had escalated into further medical problems. She learned she had developed kidney failure and was asthmatic.
My blood sugars out of control, James stated. I dont eat much. Diabetes has got a hold of my digestive system. I wouldnt be
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able to make it unless my kids helped me or my husband.
Hence, Hunter came on board in July to assist James in her daily routine. We have to do so much, Hunter said. Thats why we went to Springfield.
The union employs 1,000 people in Rockford and 10,000 statewide. In November, 400 union members and supporters protested in Springfield to receive living wages and health care benefits.
Last year when Gov. George Ryan released the budget, union members thought they would be receiving the perks, according to Local 880 organizer Jason Turner.
Instead, there was not a dime, he commented. These workers have been taking care of people for a long time and havent received a living wage. Were demanding legislation.
On April 5, union members and supporters
plan to traverse down state again to protest. Bills have been introduced this year and are in committees. If they are approved by the legislature, they will become effective July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
Miguel Delvalle (D-2) introduced Senate Bill 665 for living wages for people who serve those under 63 with disabilities. In the Senate, bills 690 and 691, introduced by Dave Syverson (R-34), are for the same workers to receive health insurance.
The House bills, introduced by Jack McGuire (D-86), are 2398 and 2399.
Senate bills 692 and 693 were introduced by Syverson for workers who take care of senior citizens to receive better pay for wages and health insurance. McGuire introduced identical bills, 2430 and 2431, in the House.
Mary Kay OBrien (D-75) in the House introduced 3010 to raise the wages for home child care providers to a living wage. No bills have been proposed in the Senate.