Washington State House Democrats


Home care workers deserve retirement option

Tens of thousands of home care workers in Washington who care for seniors and people with disabilities are getting older and facing the fact that they may never be able to retire. So these workers got together and through their union, they negotiated a fiscally responsible agreement with the Governor to fund a 23-cent/hour contribution toward their retirement.

Home care workers are dedicated to helping others. They take care of our parents, our children, and even ourselves, and now as home care workers are getting older, they are asking for us to help them retire. In a committee hearing this week, a home care worker shared a story of a colleague, Judy, who couldn’t afford to retire and worked right up until a few weeks before her death at age 70. Judy’s story is not unique – there are many caregivers who work hard and try to be responsible, but are unable to save for retirement.

Judy’s story

The House budget proposal shows that we value the hard work of home care workers and we fund the agreement, including making sure that home care workers get a modest retirement benefit.

The Senate Republicans are refusing to fund the negotiated agreement. In fact, their budget proposal specifically states that funding for an agreement will only be provided if the agreement, “does not contain contributions for a retirement benefit.” Senate Republicans would have the state go back on its word to some of the hardest working people in our state.

No one is proposing that we add home care workers to the state’s defined benefit pension system. Instead, contributions would go into a trust fund that would provide a modest benefit to caregivers who earn just over minimum wage, providing a needed supplement to social security – which itself provides a very low retirement benefit for low-wage workers.

As legislators, we face many difficult decisions in balancing our state’s budget, but short-changing hard working Washingtonians and the people they care for shouldn’t be one of them. The easy choice and the right choice is to honor the agreement that was negotiated and provide a modest retirement contribution that strengthens community care for vulnerable Washingtonians and provides piece of mind for those who provide it.