Union gets raise for IHSS workers

The persistent lobbying of the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) union has paid off in the form of a 50-cent per hour raise.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a tentative contract agreement with the California United Home Health Care Workers union in a March 12 closed session. The pact still has to be approved by the union but it’s virtually a given since it stems from a mediators settlement agreement approved by both sides on March 6.

Though the terms of the agreement won’t be disclosed until the union approves it, a 50-cent hourly raise was mentioned by a union member during a public comment session.

IHSS workers now make the state minimum wage of eight dollars an hour. Union lobbyist Shane Brinton thanked supervisors and told them that the “modest” contract “does begin to address the unacceptably low wages and retention rates” of the county’s IHSS program.

The union has asked the county for a 75-cent hourly raise this year and a 75-cent raise next year. The push for better pay will continue. “We will continue to do our utmost to advocate for the well-being of our members, their families and of the recipients who depend on IHSS services,” Brinton said.

Cathy Sobillo, an IHSS worker and a member of the union’s bargaining team, thanked the groups and unions that supported the call for higher IHSS pay. But she stopped short of thanking supervisors.

“I’m not quite ready to say that yet – not quite ready to say thank you for the crumbs instead of giving us the whole cracker,” she said. “You did have the ability to pay us more … all I can say is, watch out for the next three years, when we get to come back to the table.”

John Inman, an IHSS worker who’s been advocating for better wages for over a decade, said he’s “a little bit in dissent with my union” because other IHSS workers have told him that a 50-cent wage increase is “too little, too late.”

Inman credited Supervisor Estelle Fennell, the newest member of the board, with influencing the approval of the wage hike.

Margaret Lewis, an IHSS worker from Garberville, described the raise as a starting point. “I wish that it had been more, like all of us I wish that it had been what we asked,” she said. “Maybe we can continue in the future, maybe we have a springboard to jump from now.” Fennell said that supervisors can comment more substantially after the union approves the contract. In a county press release sent out shortly after the agreement was approved by supervisors, Fennell called the agreement “a significant step toward finding an equitable solution.”

Once the union approves the contract, the board will approve it in open session and then the state will deliver its approval.