Low-wage home care workers arrested in fight for a living wage

Nov. 18, 2014
Contact: Khanh Weinberg

Low-wage home care workers arrested in fight for a living wage
Protesters demand a path out of poverty for home care providers

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The national wave of demonstrations led by fast-food, Wal-Mart and other low-wage workers reached the state’s epicenter of wealth today when hundreds marched inside a San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting to demand a path out of poverty for home care providers.

Following impassioned speeches before the elected county supervisors to demand a fair and just contract, protesters were arrested for refusing to vacate the board chamber.

Among those led away in handcuffs was Mary Kay Henry, the Service Employees International Union President and a leading voice in the fight to lift low-wage workers out of poverty.

“Make no mistake, the ‘Fight for $15’ which started with fast-food workers in New York, spreading to security officers and other low-wage workers, is challenging San Mateo County leaders to do the right thing,” said Henry. “It’s time to bring economic justice and economic buying power to home care providers.”

Struggling on wages that have not increased since 2007, San Mateo County’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers currently earn $11.50 an hour, or 60% below the self-sufficiency wage needed to live in the region, calculated at $17.33 an hour.
“Today, we are standing up not just for home care workers in our community, but for security officers, fast-food workers, and millions of other low wage workers across the country,” said Ceila Ylip, a San Mateo County home care provider. “Families like mine are struggling to get by on poverty wages. We are taking a stand in San Mateo County and we are not alone.”

Of the 5,000 IHSS workers, approximately 3 in 4 are women, and the majority of the workforce are people of color. The county’s last and final offer would still fail to move the care providers out of poverty to a level of self-sufficiency.

“We are here today because you have failed us, and you have failed the community,” said SEIU Local 521 Chief Elected Officer Luisa Blue, addressing the board. “By denying home care providers a just and fair living wage, you are treating them as second-tier citizens. And since the majority of homecare workers are women and minorities, this equates to the county failing a major segment of the community.”

With more than $300 million in budget surplus, the county can invest in the home care program that allows the elderly and people with disabilities to live with dignity at home. Yet, after negotiating fair contracts with its two largest employee unions, San Mateo County continues to treat its home care providers as second-tier citizens.


The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit www.seiu521.org

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