San Francisco is, once again, attempting to lead the way to higher wages for traditionally lower income professions. Recently, San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer led an effort to raise the minimum compensation for home care workers, what they refer to as In-Home Supportive Services, from $15 an hour to $16 an hour, which will become effective February 1, 2019.
The hourly rate for these workers will then rise over the next several years, reaching $18.75 per hour by July 1, 2022. For many home care workers, this is great news, but it’s also helping other city contract workers, including janitors and desk clerks, and while initial negotiations considered taking the necessary funds from the city’s reserves, it will now come out of the general fund.
The San Francisco Chronicle noted in its blog, SF supes OK raises for home health care and city contract workers, written by Trisha Thadani:
“Several members of the board said the final ordinance is a positive step forward for the city.
“This is extremely good news for the more than 20,000 home health care workers who do critical work taking care of our seniors, and for the thousands of nonprofit workers who work on the front lines of homelessness and provide safety net services for our families,” Ronen and Fewer said in a joint statement.
The increase will make home health care workers the highest paid in the country, they said.”
Advocates of these measures state that it’s necessary to provide “living wages” for individuals in traditionally lower income jobs, especially those professions that are deemed necessary. Home care is a valuable resource for millions of Americans across the country, both elderly and disabled. However, traditionally these jobs have not paid the best and these are some government level bureaucratic efforts to help increase wages.
It’s important to note, however, that the cost of living in San Francisco in the surrounding region has continued to escalate to the point where many of these lower income workers simply can’t afford to either work or even commute into the region. That has left thousands of people moving out of the area in pursuit of more affordable living options.
Increasing the wages can offer short-term relief and great political talking points, and while these increases affect public level workers, or individuals who are reimbursed by the city, it may put more pressure on private agencies and force them further and further away from Medicaid funded clients who may be the most vulnerable and at risk. The problem is complex, far more so than what a simple wage hike may portend to solve.