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Dave Cortese addresses a group of workers in San Jose

Dave Cortese addresses a group of workers in San Jose

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In the past, Maria Gutierrez- San Jose resident and home care worker has worked extra hours to receive food. She would voluntarily work an additional 3 hours to receive a bag of basic groceries. Gutierrez came out to let her voice be heard about her wages.“I have not asked for food but my fridge is empty, right now I have two clients, my wages are not enough.”

Gutierrez’s story is not unheard of for her field of work. She is just one of Santa Clara County’s 17,000 homecare workers whose average annual income was 11,564 last year, which is 65 percent below San Jose’s official living wage.Protesters and clients from the county program In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) gathered for a sit-in outside of the offices of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Monday, January 27.

In 2010, IHSS workers were among the first to make concessions during the wake of the recession. The county has since then negotiated raises for many other county employees but has yet to raise the wages of IHSS.“We are doing work that is self-sacrificing, neglected, but full of love and compassion for our elderly. Elderly that have family with lots of disabilities,” said Gutierrez. She  provides cares for a woman with Parkinsons, Alzheimers, as well as Dementia.

During the sit-in Supervisor Dave Cortese came out to speak with protesters.

“You certainly have my individual support. Everything else in this county that deals with money, it takes 3 votes from the board of supervisors. You’re going to have to keep talking to each individual supervisor” said Cortese. Karim Olaechea Communications Specialist for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 said home care workers are among the fastest growing positions.  

“It’s not surprising when you think about it. The baby boomer generation is entering retirement, we have an aging country,” said Olaechea. “A lot of jobs are being created around the care of that generation.” There are approximately 200,000 seniors in Santa Clara County. Eventually, each senior will require long-term care.

IHSS has pointed out that the county is not prepared for such a large amount of seniors. Moreover they are not prepared for the future when the number of seniors will increase. “What they are asking for is  equal treatment, and they are asking for wages that are going to keep these people and their families out of poverty,” said Olaechea. 

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