Since 2006, direct care workers have been granted only one cost of living adjustment (COLA) wage increase. This has been catastrophic to the thousands of workers across the state that aid the most vulnerable in our communities. This has resulted in high turnover, and has diminished the quality of care despite the best efforts of dedicated staff.
The outset of the budget season this year threatened to be a replay of the same denial, with the Governor initially keeping COLA out again. However, concerned citizens and SEIU Local 200United members had decided that enough was enough. By organizing through social media, attending a press conference, and contacting their elected representatives directly, the people of New York stood united in saying that direct care workers were deserving of a COLA. Both the Assembly and the Senate went on record in their budgets that direct care workers deserved a COLA.
With the backing of several key legislators, the issue of the COLA increase was brought to the forefront of the budget season debates. By keeping up the pressure to do the right thing, the legislature and Governor included COLA language in the 2014-2015 New York State Budget. The language gives direct care workers an overall 4% wage increase (2% on January 1, 2015 and another 2% on April 1, 2015). By including a COLA in the budget, the state will improve the lives of both the workers and the individual they serve.