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Can AFSCME Win Raises for Caregivers to Developmentally Disabled?

Can AFSCME Win Raises for Caregivers to Developmentally Disabled?

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago)

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago)

(Chicago) – Despite looming Illinois budget cuts, AFSCME has launched a new effort to win raises for caregivers to developmentally disabled individuals.

On Tuesday, AFSCME rolled out the “Care Campaign”, an effort to raise wages for direct-support workers.

The goal of the initiative is to raise the starting wage to $13 an hour, with an initial increase of $1 per hour for all direct-support workers in Fiscal Year 2014.

The campaign is making its Springfield debut this week with a lobby day on Wednesday as the House Human Services Appropriations Committee aims to cut $770 million from the budgets of Illinois human service programs.

“Some 23,000 individuals with developmental disabilities are supported in community settings in Illinois, but many of the direct-support employees who provide that support don’t earn enough to support their own families,” said Art Dykstra, president and executive director of Trinity Services Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities in Peoria, Chicago and south-central Mascoutah, Illinois.

According to a recent Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities salary survey, the average direct-support wage in Illinois is $9.35 per hour—21 percent below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty threshold of $11.32 for a family of four.

“This largely female workforce is often forced to work overtime or hold down second jobs just to make ends meet,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. “It’s wrong that workers who carry out a responsibility of state government—caring for the most vulnerable among us—aren’t paid enough to support their own families.”

The state legislature has not approved a cost-of-doing-business increase for community providers since 2007, according to AFSCME.

State funding for community disability agencies has increased less than one percent per year over the past decade (9.5 percent over 10 years). By contrast, the Consumer Price Index increased 23 percent over the same period.

Nevertheless, the new AFSCME campaign for cost-of-living increase arrives as the House human service budget committee is seeking to slash spending.

In a message to constituents on May 9, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), chairman of the Human Services Appropriations Committee, wrote,”[O]ur appropriations committee is struggling with the need to cut $770 million from the Governor’s proposed FY14 budgets for departments ranging from Veterans Affairs to Aging to DCFS to Human Services.”

One Springfield insider said, “Charitably, a salary hike will be an uphill climb.”

Stay tuned.

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