Letter to the editor: Support effort to unionize personal care attendants
I work as the personal care attendant (PCA) for my partner of 26 years, Jessie. Jessie was once a dancer on "American Bandstand" - today she faces an array of health problems, including diabetes that has resulted in the amputation of her legs. She can do very little with her arms, her kidneys are in bad shape which necessitates weekly dialysis, and her eyes are also failing her.
Jessie needs help with all aspects of life - cooking, cleaning, changing her colostomy bag and diapers, bathing, and moving around. Her PCA makes her feel comforted and secure.
We've had several bad experiences trying to find good PCAs. One even walked out during her shift. To make sure Jessie had stable care, last year I quit my job doing maintenance making $19 per hour to work as Jessie's PCA for $11 per hour.
The reason it's so hard to find a good home care worker is because of the low wages and lack of real benefits. Home care workers do as difficult and as important of a job as those who work in nursing homes and hospitals but we don't have basic benefits like paid sick days. If I'm sick and have to work because there's no paid time off, I could end up infecting a client like Jessie that is very vulnerable.
Home care workers do tough work and need to be paid decent wages and benefits. I support a bill that would give home care workers the right to form a union - with a union, we can increase the standards of PCA work, attract better PCAs and provide better care.
Please give us the right to make something more of our careers, rather than living paycheck to paycheck. Jessie - and the thousands of others receiving care - are counting on us.
Richard L'Allier - Woodbury