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Missouri home care workers reach historic wage agreement

Jeff Mazur, (573) 635-9145

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After eleven months of bargaining, home care attendants in Missouri’s consumer-directed services program reached a tentative agreement Friday on a contract that would raise hourly pay for thousands of workers.  The 8,000 to 9,000 home care attendants in the program currently earn an average of $8.58 an hour. Once implemented, the new contract will lift the hourly wage of most to $10.15.

“This is an historic moment for home care workers in Missouri,” said Penny Von Busch, an attendant from Senath.  “We know and consumers of home care services know the value of the work that we do, and this agreement is a great first step in making sure our wages reflect that value.”

The agreement, reached between home care attendants belonging to the Missouri Home Care Union and the Missouri Quality Home Care Council, is the first such contract bargained by home care workers in Missouri. 

The agreement not only lifts wages for home care workers but also elevates the discretion of consumers in determining the wages of attendants.  Under the agreement, consumers in the consumer-directed services program would have the right to choose what their attendant earns in the range of $8.50 an hour to $10.15 an hour.  This is a change to the status quo, in which third-party vendors who administer the program determine the wage rate.  Because of the critical care they provide and the close relationship they often have with their consumers, most attendants believe consumers will choose to pay at or near the top of the range at $10.15 an hour.

In fact, consumers have been a vital part of the effort to raise wages for attendants.

“My attendant is an essential to living the life that I want to live, so I believe she should get paid a fair, living wage,” said Kyle Auxier of St. James, who receives care through the consumer-directed services program.  He added, “Right now, we don’t do nearly enough to pay home care attendants what they deserve.  This agreement gets us on a right track.  I’ll definitely pay my attendants as much as I can, and I believe the vast majority of consumers in the program feel the same way.”

The agreement reached on October 17 now must be ratified by both the Missouri Quality Home Care Council and by members of the Missouri Home Care Union.

Once in effect, the agreement will bring with it a number of other substantive rights and improvements to working conditions for home care attendants, along with higher wages.  For the first time, home care workers will have a process for addressing incorrect payment for the hours they work, receive an additional $3 per hour in premium pay for working on holidays, and get protections on how their personal and financial data is shared by vendors. 

“Home care workers in Missouri have fought long and hard –more than six years now—to get the rights and dignity that come with this contract,” said Linda Carter, a home care attendant from St. Louis.  “Because of our fight, and through the help of the Quality Home Care Council and Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration in reaching this agreement, home care attendants and consumers will be better off here than they ever have been.”

Also central to the home care wage effort were partners like Missouri Jobs with Justice, which generated more than 1,500 phone calls from seniors in support of attendants, and Caring Across Generations, which brought more than 200 home care workers from across the country to St. Louis to stand in support of a fair wage  for Missouri attendants.