Schofield Home Health Care workers in Buffalo after union vote, Credit: SEIU Local 1199

New York State grew its ranks of union home care workers last week, after 40 caregivers from Schofield Home Health Care in Buffalo voted overwhelmingly to organize. The workers will join Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, which currently represents 70,000 home care workers in New York.

“We are in an exciting period of workers organizing in our area,” Kim Gibson, 1199SEIU New York organizing coordinator, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in an email. “Because homecare workers are primarily in isolation inside of their client’s homes, it’s more challenging for them to organize into a union. This has left them behind in wages, benefits and representation on the job.”

Low wages have been a huge barrier for New York as it struggles to attract and retain caregivers. PHI National says the state needs to recruit approximately 80,000 direct care workers over the next few years. While the state’s $13.20 minimum wage will increase to $14.20 at the end of the month, it might not be enough to lift an estimated 450,000 New York home care workers out of poverty and lure more people into the industry. 

In an interview late last year, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse that low wages and the COVID-19 pandemic have created inroads for the union in its efforts to organize the nation’s roughly 3 million home care workers.

“People decide enough is enough. I deserve better,” Henry said at the time.

SEIU currently represents approximately 750,000 home care workers nationwide.