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Home Care workers demand wage increase

Jefferson City, Mo. — Missouri’s in-home health care providers are lobbying Gov. Jay Nixon to support an $11 per hour minimum wage, and plan to make Missouri the focus of a national conversation about their work.

Missouri home care workers organized statewide events earlier this month to raise awareness about the kind of work they do. Home care attendants provide care in a patient’s home, often in lieu of a skilled nursing facility. The current average hourly wage for a home care worker in Missouri is $8.60.

“They are paid a pittance,” said Jeff Mazur of AFSCME, who is co-chair of the Missouri Home Care Union. “It’s not an appropriate reflection in compensation of the work they do or the care they provide. And this isn’t just attendants looking for this increase, this is the consumers saying that they understand how critical the care is that they get, and that the person providing it should be better compensated.”

Home care workers are paid through Missouri’s Medicaid program and an increase in their wages would not require the state to spend more money on Medicaid. The Missouri legislature appropriates $15.56 per hour for home care services to state vendors. The Missouri Quality Home Care Council works with workers to collectively bargain a wage floor with vendors.

Gov. Jay Nixon
Gov. Jay Nixon

Mazur and the Home Care Union are hoping MQHCC will be persuaded to establish a new wage floor at $11 per hour, without asking for an increase in appropriations from the legislature.

“Even factoring in the fringe costs and the new costs, that would leave about $2.82 per hour for the vendors to simply have as a slush,” Mazur said. “That’s nearly 20 percent, and what we are saying is we don’t need to raise the rate or spend another dime.”

Mazur said the public support of Nixon was critical to getting MQHCC — which is made up of gubernatorial appointees — to support the increase. St. Louis will be the cite of a national rally in October. Caring Across Generations, a non-profit group focused on health care for the aging population, will be holding a rally in St. Louis called the “Care Workers Rising” event, in which they hope to bring national attention to the poor wages made by the nation’s in-home health care providers.

The next opportunity for bargaining with the MQHCC will come on September 17, where Mazur said he hopes to see the beginnings of a negotiation. So far, though, Nixon and the MQHCC have been largely silent.

“Governor Nixon has a real opportunity to demonstrate that he’s a friend of the people in this program by leading on the issue of wages for home care providers,” Mazur said.