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Tentative Contract For Home Care Workers Would Give Them $14 Per Hour In Two Years

The union that represents about 33,000 independent home care workers in Washington says it has reached a tentative contract with the state that would boost their average hourly pay to more than $14 by the beginning of 2017. 

The Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 Northwest, one of the state’s most powerful unions, is headed by David Rolf, who played a big part in crafting Seattle’s plan for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years.

His union used that as a model as it bargained for a new home care worker contract. The tentative deal comes close, but union spokesman Jackson Holtz says the union had to be realistic.

"The state is still in a precarious fiscal situation," he said. "And so while we wanted $15 in this contract, we also understand we need a pathway to get there, and that the state also needs a pathway to be able to allow lawmakers to figure out how to get the revenue to fund the contract."

The state says the two-year contract will cost a total of $90 million. Holtz says an additional $30 million will be needed to pay for home care provided by private agencies under state parity agreements.

The state says it’s evaluating whether the plan is financially feasible. If so, the governor will include it in his budget, and legislators then need to figure out a way to pay for it.

Home care workers who take care of the elderly and people with disabilities in their homes are mostly paid with Medicaid dollars. Union members say the Legislature should get rid of tax breaks for big corporations to help fund their contract. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.