Kindalay Cummings-Akers has been working as a personal care attendant, caring for the elderly and disabled in their homes, for nearly a decade. But she will soon be making $15 an hour for the first time ever after she and her union, 1199SEIU, reached an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) at the end of last week.
“I’m so excited, I am,” she told ThinkProgress with joy filling her voice. “I’m happy that we have opened the door. It’s a big thing.”
Home care workers have long been poorly paid, thanks in part to the fact that they are excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. They make just $9.61 on average, while a quarter live in poverty and three in five rely on public benefits.
Cummings-Akers’s wages and those of her fellow attendants had stayed stuck at $10.84 an hour for years before a contract last year brought them up to $13.38. But after she and other home care workers joined up with the Fight for $15 movement, those in her union have become the first home care workers in the country to win such a wage level.
Despite the low pay, home care aides do tough work. For her client and his wife, who has dementia, Cummings-Akers gives them showers, lifts them and their wheelchairs, gives them medication, makes them meals, takes them to doctor’s appointments and talks with the doctors, does the grocery shopping, cleans their clothes, and even helps care for their cat. “It’s a lot of work, it truly is a lot of work,” she said. “When you do work like this, you have to be a very strong person.”