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Home care workers rally for pandemic pay amid COVID-19

Lawmakers have differing opinions when it comes to wage increases
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 4:48 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Home care workers are on the frontlines of the pandemic and work to protect the elderly and those with disabilities. Those workers are now demanding pandemic pay from the state of Illinois.

“It would be a way of helping us shoulder the cost, and a way of thanking us for the risk we’re taking,” says John Colley, who has worked in the business for 17 years, and now cares for his mother and brother. “I’m in a better situation than most of my fellow workers. I don’t have any kids,” he explains. “With the workers that have kids they have to choose between buying protective equipment and feeding their kids.”

Colley says he made $14.00 per hour when the pandemic started, and just received a raise July 1 to make $14.50. Since February he paid $1,800 out of pocket for additional PPE.

“It might not hurt me,” he says. “But my brother and my mother, I know [COVID-19] would take them out. And it would be all my fault.” Colley’s brother has disabilities, and his mother suffered a heart-attack and spent time in a nursing home.

Colley and a dozen other Service Employee International Union members gathered in front of the SEIU office in Rockford Wednesday for a social distant rally they called a ‘Care-A-Van.’ State Representative Maurice West joined in chants and made a speech.

“They’re doing this right now in the goodness of their heart, paying out of pocket expenses just to protect themselves, and that’s not right,” says West. “Essential means extremely important. And so we have to make sure that our workers know that they’re extremely important because they’re serving our most vulnerable populations. The senior citizens and the disability community.”

When asked what he would say to lawmakers or anyone opposing wage increases, he says it’s critical to make the change. “This is not the time right now to oppose anything that is COVID-19 related.”

But State Senator Dave Syverson says he believes the state cannot afford wage increases at this time. He also says it’s unfair to choose one profession to give increases to, when several others battle the pandemic, too.

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