Jun 27, 2023
Personal care workers call on Gov. Healey to raise their wages
SPRINGFIELD — Members of a union representing personal care attendants want Gov. Maura T. Healey to fulfill a pledge to raise their pay. A group of nearly 20 PCAs gathered Tuesday at Springfield’s
SPRINGFIELD — Members of a union representing personal care attendants want Gov. Maura T. Healey to fulfill a pledge to raise their pay.
A group of nearly 20 PCAs gathered Tuesday at Springfield’s state office building to complain of what they see as low pay and inadequate benefits.
“During the pandemic, we were the ones working while everybody else was home,” PCA Janice Guzman said. “We were still out and about in the community.”
The PCAs said their reason for protesting, as contract talks continue, is to bring attention to Healey’s promise to raise wages and provide benefits for the 60,000 members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
“We endorsed her (during the election period). That’s when she told us that we deserve $25 for everything that we do,” Guzman said.
In Massachusetts, 68,000 workers care for 40,000 patients, according to Marlishia Aho, regional communications manager for the union.
PCAs make $18 an hour, according to Guzman, who said they do not get paid more for working overtime or during holidays. There is a high turnover rate in the field, running between 40% and 60%, according to Aho.
LaMar Cook, Western Massachusetts deputy director for the governor’s office, was present at the protest and listened to the PCAs’ requests, saying he’d relay them to Healey’s office.
Janice Guzman (left), talks with LaMar Cook, Gov. Maura Healey's Western Mass Deputy Driector, as advocates for increased pay and benefits for Personal Care Attendants held an informational picket line at the Statehouse offices in Springfield. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 7/25/2023
“I understand your concerns, and I’m here to listen,” he said. “I do understand that there are negotiations happening with the union and administration. I can’t comment on that specifically, but I can listen.”
Guzman, who’s been a PCA for over 20 years, said one concern is that personal care attendants are being asked to provide services for which they are not fully trained.
“MassHealth removed ... nurses during COVID, and the PCAs are not trained to do this,” she said. “I’m a healthcare worker, so I have the training for it, but PCAs who don’t have that training are critical.”
A blog post by the union reported that under former Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, United Healthcare Workers built upon the $15 minimum wage established in their last contract and raised it to $16.10 in 2021. In addition, they were successful in securing 50 hours of paid time off annually.
Along with raising wages to $25 an hour, paid holidays and paid training, Guzman and other employees are requesting 401(k)s.
”This is a workforce that is getting older as well as caring for older people and so (they must) ensure that they are able to retire as well, which is not the case,” Aho said.
Aho said efforts to advance the contract between the union and the state began last year through public forums and conversations with legislators. They recently shifted their focus to pressing the state for action.
She said the state’s latest proposal, offered to the union July 11, would raise wages by 50 cents an hour each year for three years.
State Rep. Orlando Ramos, D-Springfield, said he supports 1199SEIU’s efforts to raise hourly wages for PCAs. “I’ve always been a supporter of PCAs,” he said. “They are a union that represents hardworking people and I wholeheartedly support their efforts.”
Ramos said he has met with personal care workers and participated in rallies they’ve hosted. He supported creating a supplemental state budget to provide for new contracts with several unions, including 1199SEIU.
The union’s next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 1 at its Quincy office.
Aho said contract talks are at a “pivotal moment ... to see if they are closing the gap.”
She added, “This is about the future of home care and Massachusetts.”