A new report from SEIU Local 503, Oregon’s care provider union, has found that collective bargaining improved the standard of care available to seniors and people with disabilities.
In the twenty years that Oregon’s homecare and personal support workers have been in union, they have changed the entire shape of the long-term care system in the state. What used to be a government stipend program has been transformed into a professional workforce that creates tens of thousands of jobs and keeps aging populations and people with disabilities in their homes, maintaining positive health outcomes.
In a recent study put together by our union, we looked at how having a union has transformed the lives of care providers and the consumers they provide services for. The results show a startling union difference in what we have achieved by working together.
The first key finding is that access to our union, which means great healthcare and a living wage, has decreased turnover so significantly that it has added some stability to a chaotic in-home care structure.
“Through our union, we have instituted mandatory training for home care workers and significantly reduced turnover,” said Rebecca Sandoval, a State homecare worker in Medford. “These changes have been life changing for our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”
Turnover rates are so significant for health outcomes that they are often a stand in for quality, meaning it is one of the most essential factors that ensures the grade of care that our consumers receive.
Increased training opportunities help homecare workers succeed and maintain a high care standard for everyone in the program. Homecare workers now receive a standardized level of training, and we can get professional development certifications for increasing skills.
Many private homecare agencies, such as Visiting Angels or Comfort Keepers, have had issues with massive turnover, little to no training, and the inability to provide consistency of care for the people they are hired to support. Likewise, their wages and benefits are often far below what we have won through our union. Together we are continuing to move the in-home care field forward.
“In the 20 years since Oregonians voted to allow collective bargaining for our homecare union, we have made incredible strides,” said Sandoval. “We’ve negotiated pay increases, gained access to benefits like health insurance and paid time off, and raised standards across the long-term care industry.”
Our report goes in depth about how different state homecare work is when compared to private agencies, which was no accident. We have a strong union that has fought to improve the lives of both care providers and those receiving services, and it is because of the hard work of care providers from around Oregon who came together and found their voice.