HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA – Today, nursing home and frontline workers in Huntington stood with Mayor Steve Williams at Huntington City Hall as part of a national day of action in 16 cities across the country. As leaders in Washington debate additional relief and recovery measures, workers are demanding legislative action that transforms caregiving jobs, which have been deemed essential during the pandemic but all too often are not respected, protected and paid as such, into good, union jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits.
One year after COVID-19 upended business as usual in the United States, frontline care workers have made extraordinary sacrifices to keep our communities safe, fed, clean and cared for. The pandemic has brought unprecedented attention to the essential contributions of direct care workers — the majority of whom are women. The care industry is our nation’s fastest growing sector. With 10,000 people turning 65 in the U.S. every day, an estimated 1.3 million new care jobs are needed in the next decade to meet rising demand. But many care workers are paid low wages, lack workplace benefits and protections like paid sick leave, and have rung the alarm on unsafe staffing levels, only to have their concerns ignored.
“Healthcare workers in Huntington and across our region have given everything they have to the effort to defeat COVID19 and care for others in this pandemic,” said Joyce Gibson, Secretary Treasurer with SEIU District 1199. “Long-term care workers have worked in difficult conditions while providing essential care for the people of Huntington. This crisis must be a call to action so that working people and their families can emerge from this stronger. These workers always deserved higher wages and we have to take action to ensure that all care workers have the ability to join a union,” continued Gibson. “We cannot wait until the next pandemic to ensure that there are more good union long-term care jobs with a living wage of $15 an hour and affordable health insurance,” said Gibson.
Across the country, workers in 16 cities called on President Joe Biden and members of Congress to follow through on the Build Back Better plan and commit $450 billion to our caregiving system as part of the next relief package. This investment would create more than one million jobs in direct care and transform them into family-sustaining jobs that come with the opportunity to join a union. It would also put women — at the center of our nation’s economic recovery and create the foundation of a new, inclusive middle class.