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San Bernardino County caregivers plan March 12 rally for first pay raise in 9 years

San Bernardino County’s caregivers say they’re tired of playing nice.
So, on March 12, as many as 200 caregivers, their clients and other supporters plan to shut down part of Arrowhead Avenue during the Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Caregivers said the action was planned when they were unable to get a pay raise and better benefits during a recent bargaining session with the county.
“The county’s unwillingness to come to a consensus with us on the needs of the (In-Home Supportive Service Providers) program shows us that they don’t respect the work we do and the care we provide for the seniors and people with disabilities of San Bernardino County,” said Enrique Camacho , who cares for his autistic sons and is a member of the bargaining team with SEIU Local 2015 that met with the county. His union represents more than 26,000 In-Home Supportive Service Providers.
For several months, union members and volunteers have been seeking higher wages and better benefits. Working caregivers in San Bernardino County have not received a raise in nine years and have, instead, relied on increases in the minimum wage, which is currently $11 an hour. Many of the caregivers also lack healthcare through the county, leaving them either without coverage or paying for plans on their own.
“Negotiations with SEIU 2015 are going well and are on-track,” said David Wert, county spokesman via email. “The county is committed to continuing negotiations in good faith and reaching an agreement that serves everyone well, including caregivers and the taxpayers.”
In San Bernardino County, caregivers help more than 30,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities live as independently as possible in their own home. They help administer medication and transport clients to medical appointments and other personal care services. They also help with housecleaning, meal preparation, laundry and grocery shopping.
The push comes at a time when the demand for caregivers is rapidly growing. Over the next 11 years the county’s senior population is expected to more than double, to 550,488, according to the California Department of Aging .
In his statement, Camacho said Supervisor Janice Rutherford told the group at a recent event that the county could not give a raise and benefits because it has other priorities.
“That’s a slap in the face to not just me and my colleagues, but the thousands of people who depend on the IHSS program to survive,” he said.
Rutherford, however, said she believes SEIU misunderstood her remarks.
“I was explaining that the county has many priorities, and that we cannot fund any one of those to the exclusion of the others,” Rutherford said via email.
“I also explained that the board has given direction to its negotiators and that all such negotiations take place at the bargaining table, not with individual supervisors at public events or in the media.”
The rally is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. where 4th Street and Arrowhead Avenue intersects, just outside the county government center, at 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., in San Bernardino.
The Board of Supervisors’ meeting starts at 9 a.m. for closed session and 10 a.m. for open session.
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