State Continues To Withhold Pay Raise Promised To State-Funded Caregivers

March 30, 2018
Members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union representing personal assistants who provide in-home care to people with disabilities, hold signs in front of the Champaign office for the Illinois Department of Human Services on March 29, 2018.

Members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union representing personal assistants who provide in-home care to people with disabilities, hold signs in front of the Champaign office for the Illinois Department of Human Services on March 29, 2018.

Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

When the state budget went into effect last August, a provision within the law provided a 48-cent hourly wage increase to 28,000 state workers known as personal assistants. But those workers still haven't seen that money yet.

The workers in question are known as personal assistants. The workers provide in-home care to more than 30,000 people with disabilities, helping them dress, bathe, and perform other tasks that enable them to live at home, rather than in costly nursing homes.

Virginia Grant of Charleston makes $13 an hour, and like other home assistants, she hasn’t gotten a raise in three years.

“If we cannot support ourselves, how can we care for someone else?” Grant said. "This work is important. We often do it in the shadows, but it matters to a lot of people.”

Richard Osby of Urbana has been a personal assistant for five years. He says the work is very difficult.

“It is physically and mentally demanding," Osby said. "Every single day you need to show up and have your heart and your mind in what you’re doing 100 percent.”

SEIU Healthcare Illinois is the union representing workers like Osby and Grant. The union sued Governor Rauner’s administration last August after the state failed to implement the pay raise.

Earlier this month, a Cook County judge ruled that Governor Rauner’s administration must pay what’s owed: the wage increase, plus back pay totalling $10 million. 

A spokeswoman for the Rauner administration responded to our request for comment with an email confirming they will appeal the decision, without an explanation as to why.

Grant says she was hoping to use the back pay - about $350 - to visit her sister in Nashville who’s battling cancer. But those plans, along with her raise, are on hold.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

Story source: WILL