Friday, November 11, 2011

Let's Be Honest, Let's Rename The Social Services Book

"A Guide to community resources for older adults in Tacoma/Pierce County"

I think it is brazen of anyone to print a brochure indicating where one might turn in these times for assistance. Other than family who might or might not have two pennies to scrape together to assist, you are pretty much an overturned tanker. If you are fortunate to come from one of those families, be very grateful.

To test the waters, I called The United Way Helpline (211) just the other day and the message said, "Due to the economic crisis..." right there I knew enough to just hang up.

If there is no way to get help to care for your parents while you are working two minimum wage jobs, my suggestion would be to stay away from any non-union caregiving agency. I will refrain from naming one: LUTHERAN COMMUNITY SERVICES. Unless they have changed their policies, caregivers are placed on the job with no training! This is just one reason we need unions in this country. I would not want an untrained caregiver near my mother any more than a baboon released from the zoo.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) exists for a reason. The protections give by the SEIU protect the client and the caregiver. Think of how unions got started in the first place. On May 25, 1911 a fire started in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. The factory employed people as young as fourteen. The end result, the death of 146 workers, remains the fourth highest number of people killed in an industrial accident in history.

In 1915, the New York State Committee labor laws report led to the organization of The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Sweeping changes led to labor reforms so no one had to face this atrocity again. Right now we are seeing a surge in discussion about the care of elderly citizens due to the aging populations. In January of 2010, the number of baby boomers turning 65 hit ten thousand a month.

A non-union agency organzied to "assist" the elderly exists entirely without protections for the workers or the clients. The only way citizens in this state have circumvented agencies like Lutheran Community Services is the passage of Initiative 1163 which will result in drastic changes. First, the number of hours to train an employee will increase from 28 to 75 hours. Background checks will be FBI checks, not just in-state checks. They way funds are distributed to the agencies will result in changes. The distribution of payments will shift away from upper management to the workers. Why there has been such opposition to this bill is simple.

Agencies like Lutheran Community Services have been making an absolute windfall off the backs of seniors and the disabled. The money has not trickled down to the front line workers. One can argue we do not need unions anymore until you take a good hard look at caregiving agencies. Do you want a fully trained worker caring for your loved one with a FBI background check or would you prefer a baboon? Our Governor argued this was a union backed and political move to force the state to pay the SEIU more money to train workers. However, this is the same Governor who has run our state into complete near bankruptcy along with a legislature that has written in state constutional measures to protect all agencies from cuts except for social services.

The director of The Department of Social and Health Services, Susan Dreyfus,  is fleeing at the end of this year. She's only been here two years. I think I would jump ship too and hope for a nice solid piece of wood to float safely away. -Alison Whiteman

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