Home Health Workers Sue Illinois Governor For Withholding Raise

Home health care workers sued the state of Illinois last week for allegedly withholding a 48-cent-per-hour raise required under a recently-passed state budget.

After Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a proposed budget in July, lawmakers enacted another budget, which included the pay raise for home health workers, specifically those that work under the Illinois Home Services Program, which provides personal care and some home health care for people with severe disabilities, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We are appalled that Governor Rauner refuses to activate and implement this raise,” said Johan Abatte, a disability advocate with Chicago-based nonprofit Access Living, in a statement from Service Employees International Union. “The refusal to integrate this raise is another move by the Governor’s administration that threatens the independence of people with disabilities and the livelihood of in-home care workers, who already make a low salary.”

Caregivers working for the Illinois Home Services Program currently have an average hourly wage of $13, which makes them some of the state’s lowest paid employees, the lawsuit alleges. However, that wage is well above the average $10.49 hourly rate across the in-home care industry.

Twenty-eight thousand Illinois caregivers will be impacted by the decision, according to the SEIU statement.

The new state budget outlined that the state had one month from July 5 to put the raise into effect. However, Gov. Rauner has been resistant, citing ongoing contracting negotiations between the union that has filed the class-action lawsuit, SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, and the administration. He said that wage rates should be bargained for, not legislated, the Tribune reported.

A spokesman for Gov. Rauner, Jason Schaumburg, told the Chicago Tribune that collective bargaining between the state and unions are required under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. He added that under that statute, agreements that the state and unions reach through negotiations takes precedence over any conflicting law.

SEIU vice president Terri Harkin argued that the law mandates the minimum wage requirement.

“The law is clear: the State is required to implement statutory minimum labor standards,” said Harkin in the SEIU statement. “The State is then required to bargain with the union for any increases ABOVE the minimum standard required by statute, and this $.48 increase is now the statutory minimum wage increase. Neither the Labor Act nor the SEIU collective bargaining agreement presents an obstacle to the immediate implementation of the raise required by statute.”

Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis

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Elizabeth Jakaitis