CLAYTON, Mo. — Missouri’s home care workers, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, and local faith and community leaders gathered in St. Louis today to publicly pressure Gov. Jay Nixon to support raising their minimum average wage to $11 an hour.
Missouri’s home care attendants provide care in a patient’s home, often in lieu of a skilled nursing facility, and they are paid through Missouri’s Medicaid program. The Missouri legislature appropriates $15.56 per hour for home care services to state vendors. Of that appropriation, Missouri home care workers only make about $8.50 an hour on average. The Missouri Quality Home Care Council works with workers to collectively bargain a wage floor with vendors.
Supporters of the wage hike say that Missouri won’t need to raise taxes or for that matter, spend an extra dime. They simply want the MQHCC to agree to a new collective bargaining contract with home care workers that sets the minimum wage at the $11 an hour rate. Today’s rally was largely aimed at Nixon, who appoints members of the MQHCC and whose support is critical to the movement.
“Today, I am here to stand with you all and say to the Governor, now is time for a livable wage,” Nasheed said at the rally.
Organizers say they’ll be scheduling events through October and into November and are hoping to make Missouri the focus of a larger national campaign. Caring Across Generations, a national caregiver organization, has partnered with St. Louis and Missouri Home Care Workers for a two-day conference of workshops and events at the Renaissance Hotel.
Karen Harlan, a home care attendant from Moberly, MO, said Nixon’s support was “essential” to getting the new rate, but that the Governor “hasn’t answered a single phone call.” Harlan switched home care providers a few years ago for a better wage and said it has made all the difference in the world.
“If they can pay me $11 dollars an hour, they can pay us all that,” Harlan said. “We’re making $8.55 right now on average, those are just poverty wages. We want this, we need this, we have to have this just to provide for ourselves and our families.”
Harland said her higher wage made the difference between have one job and three, and said her clients switched providers with her when they learned she was planning on joining a new company for better wages.
“They wanted to stay with me because they liked having me and they wanted to see me be able to provide for myself,” Harlan said.
One of her clients is in the process of being appointed to the MQHCC and says that though the vetting process has been completed, Nixon has yet to formerly appoint him, and hasn’t responded to any of his 5 daily phone calls.
“If we have to camp out in his office or on the grounds of the Capitol to get this, we will,” Harlan said.
Nixon has made no public statements supporting or opposing the new wage.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.