By: Kor Amos (HMEA Staff Advocate)
The first time I ever attended a Caring Force rally I was invited to speak on the behalf of the many direct services workers like myself. It was my words that would possibly weigh on the hearts and minds of our elected officials, but I didn’t choose to talk about my story. Instead, I painted a picture of the day to day struggles my co-workers faced at HMEA. Such as, after a day of work and saying goodbyes to clients with a smile, many of our staff had to still go home and face the reality of not making enough income to make ends meet. Some were single parents; others had college degrees and struggled with loan repayments. Still others never had a day to themselves as they hastily left one job to be on time for their next job that was helping to supplement the high-cost of living. Then there was my friend and co-worker who had an incredible story of how she returned back to work in three weeks after undergoing a mastectomy. She struggle through balancing cancer treatments and maintaining a 40 hour work week, all because she could not afford to stay home.
I also met supported individuals that were devastated by the revolving door of workers that left for better opportunities. Individuals that desired to build meaningful relationships but were affected by the lack of consistency because their staff couldn’t afford to stay. They too needed their voices to be heard. That’s why it’s so important that every one of us continue to get involved in advocating for ourselves and our programs. We have all witnessed the power of 150,000 workers coming together and shutting down the State House.
OUR voices have been a united chord of not just struggles but of demands for resolutions. And OUR actions in working together brought about victorious change! After The Caring Force rallied at the State House last April we received funding for better wages in the budget. There were raises for all direct-care staff positions at HMEA, but we can’t settle for a pacifier. I want you to know that last year was just a battle and I hope you know we all have to continue to advocate until we FINISH THE JOB of protecting our most vulnerable neighbors and creating a stronger economy with the pay, recognition, and respect human service workers deserve. There is more we can and must do, and with this year’s budget process under way, it’s critical we all do our part.
I hope you’ll join me this year at the Statehouse on April 7th for this years’ rally.