Cynthia Johnson (contributed photo)

As a union home care worker, I feel that our pain must be heard, our struggles understood, and that those in leadership must take all actions necessary to make sure that each personal care attendant (PCA), and those we care for, can live in dignity.

We need Gov. Ned Lamont to fund our Long-Term Care Bill of Rights to secure a pathway to $20 minimum per hour, medical benefits, retirement benefits, paid sick time off and the advanced training benefits we have earned and deserve as dedicated long-term care workers! 

We know that the state of Connecticut has nearly $200 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan. Despite countless outreach letters and calls from union workers since April, we are still being told that Connecticut is not ready to make an investment of these funds on the home care workforce and consumers that we represent.

What we as home care workers and consumers really hear is that we are not a priority to you. What we hear is that you don’t really care about developing home care services in Connecticut into the quality jobs that they should be, instead of what we have today: poverty wages and no benefits.

Well, we are not backing down! We are not giving up! And we are in this to win it! This Tuesday we are visiting the governor’s residence once again with our long-term care union sisters and brothers to make sure he understands our message loud and clear. No more poverty wages!

Home care services are extremely valuable to the people we care for daily. Our 10,000 PCAs are a workforce to be reckoned with, and majority women, Black and Latina. We care for over 6,000 disabled, elderly, and some of the most vulnerable citizens of this state.

Home care providers are the backbone of our healthcare system. We provide a priceless service to our consumers. And we care for them at home with dignity!

I personally care for my daughter, Anissa. My care allows her to live at home when she otherwise would not be able to and be forced to live in an institution, away from her family. But we’ve had caregivers who assist us leave for other jobs with better wages and benefits.

When you are barely making $16.25 an hour with hardly any other protections and benefits or job security, it’s not hard to find another job with better wages and less responsibilities. After all, we are caring for the physical and mental well-being of other human beings who are often very vulnerable if left on their own.

We need real funding to fix the historical wrongs that have left thousands of us, predominantly Black and brown women, living and working in poverty just because we have dedicated our lives to care for those we love. These services are not going away, they won’t be outsourced or solved with new technological gadgets any time soon.

This Tuesday, we’ll be sending a clear message to our governor, to our legislators, and to our state officials: that PCAs have earned and deserve a Long-Term Care Bill of Rights that allows us and our consumers to lead lives of independence and dignity.

Show respect for our hard work, for our profession. Make sure that all PCAs in this state are provided with the necessary resources to do our jobs well. That’s all we are asking for! No handouts! Do the right thing, Gov. Lamont!

Cynthia Johnson is a PCA from New Haven.

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