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Maria I. Gutierrez is just one of 17,000 homecare workers in Santa Clara County who is protesting for a better living wage. She chants with the crowd “no justice, no peace, no contract, no peace.”

Maria I. Gutierrez is just one of 17,000 homecare workers in Santa Clara County who is protesting for a better living wage. She chants with the crowd “no justice, no peace, no contract, no peace.”

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Santa Clara county home care workers and labor leaders continued their campaign for a contract negotiation and fair wages this past Tuesday (February 4) morning by rallying inside the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“This board is not taking care of the people who care for us,” said Luisa Blue, CEO of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 during the board meeting public comment.

“Our nation is aging. Because of this, homecare and personal care aides are among America’s fastest growing workforce. They are also among our most poorly paid,” continued Blue, who celebrated her 62nd birthday on Tuesday.

Blue is a veteran organizer having helped the group form in the mid-nineties. She has experience in organizing home care workers in not only Santa Clara county but also in San Mateo and San Francisco.

After Blue’s public comment, county homecare workers, labor leaders, and clients left their seats to march through the halls of the county building, chanting for a better wage.

Homecare workers in Santa Clara County are the lowest paid county employees, earning 65 percent below San Jose’s official living wage recommendation. Last year, homecare workers earned an average annual income of $11,564.

In 2013, the US Department of Labor issued two regulations for homecare workers: federal minimum wage as well as overtime protections. The overtime protection regulation allows for homecare workers to receive a federal mandated time and a half pay for any overtime hours  effective January 2015.

At the state level however, Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget plan does not allow for homecare workers to receive overtime pay. Brown proposed a limit on the numbers of hours homecare workers may work inside any In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home.

“Most of these folks take care of their family members. Many of them had other full time jobs that paid much better, but because a family member got sick or something happened to them, they quit their jobs to take care of their loved ones at home,” said Blue.

San Jose resident Ricarda Cortez is one of them. “We work for our families, our children. We don’t have have the same retirement benefits,” said Cortez. “We are fighting for our benefits and a better salary.”

The campaign will continue at the bargaining table said Blue. “We’ll see what happens at the bargaining table, if the board of supervisor are going to be serious. [Supervisors] Cortese and Chavez are serious. I don’t know about the other three.”

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