SEIU President Mary Kay Henry speaking

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office next month, nursing home and home care workers with the Service Employees International Union and National Domestic Workers Alliance met with their members of Congress on Tuesday through a virtual lobby day. The groups urged lawmakers to support Biden’s plan for the rapidly growing care economy. 

Demand for long-term care is on the rise, as Americans over the age of 65 will total 78 million people — 20% of the population — by 2035. SEIU and NDWA told the McKnight’s Business Daily that approximately 140 workers and consumers participated in Tuesday’s push, scheduling almost 20 visits with members of Congress. Participants pushed their members of Congress to work with Biden to build a care infrastructure that includes jobs that can sustain a family with wages of at least $15 per hour, responsible stewardship of Medicaid dollars and quality care that maintains the dignity and independence of aging adults and people with disabilities, the advocacy organizations said.

“Black and brown workers were at the heart of last month’s election, and now it’s time for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to lift them up by making long-term care jobs the next great jobs of the middle class,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. “In every ZIP code across the country, home care and nursing home workers perform vital work caring for our elders and loved ones with disabilities, but they’re underpaid and undervalued. They’ve waited long enough — Congress must act quickly to make sure care workers are paid at least $15 an hour with the right to form a union and every family has access to quality care.”

For Rosalind Reggans, a certified nurse assistant at Lakeview Rehab & Nursing Center in Chicago, taking part in her state’s delegation meetings Tuesday was paramount. Reggans was one of 700 nursing home workers who went on strike two weeks ago over contract negotiations with Infinity Healthcare Management. The parties reached a tentative agreement Friday for a new three-year contract, in which all workers will receive a minimum $1 an hour raise with the average staff member receiving a $2 an hour wage increase, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

“It meant a lot to me to strike recently, because the boss was willing to give CNAs $15.50, but was holding out on the other essential workers in the building,” Reggans told McKnight’s Business Daily.

“We all work as a team. One worker is no good without the other; everyone deserves a fair and livable wage,” she added. “I participated in Lobby Day because the politicians need to know what’s going on in these nursing homes. If we aren’t a voice for everyone else, the politicians will never know. Things have been swept under the rug for too long.”

This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.