Low-paying job does not mean unimportant

Underpaid workers must unite to raise minimum wage in Mass.

I’ve been a personal care attendant (PCA) for more than 13 years. It’s a job I’m incredibly passionate about, because I have the opportunity to care for my clients in a way that enables them to remain healthy, independent, and safe.

I care for individuals of all ages and backgrounds, and perhaps the most difficult part of my job is not being able to cure my clients. Thankfully, the training I’ve received as part of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 has helped me manage a variety of ailments and situations and, most importantly, ensure I’m providing high quality care to my clients.

It’s important work, and work I’m proud to do every day. Unfortunately this work is not well paid. While workers in my union have fought hard for years to make some gains in wages, many of my colleagues have not been as fortunate. Right now there are thousands of agency homecare workers in Massachusetts living at or close to the minimum wage.

It’s important for us health care providers, caregivers, companions, and even nurturers to pull together and make sure that our voices are heard by our elected officials, neighbors, and fellow community members.

If we don’t speak up, we’re not holding up our end of the bargain on behalf of our clients and loved ones who depend on top quality health care.

That’s why the June 12th Wage Action Day is so important. On this day in Boston, Worcester and Springfield, hundreds of workers from across Massachusetts will come together to protest low wages and growing inequality in how we are paid.

We come from a variety of industries, from health care and transportation, to fast food and higher education. What we have in common is that we all work hard providing an important service to our neighbors and community members.

There has been much attention paid recently to fast food worker strikes and efforts to raise the minimum wage around the country. It’s time we stand up here at home in our own communities. The minimum wage in Massachusetts pays thousands less each year than it did in the 1960s, when you take into account inflation.

I’ve seen the sacrifices my colleagues make to continue the work they love for as little as $8 an hour. Many are single parents who struggle to support their families. They battle their own health conditions and are sometimes faced with the terrifying choice of paying for groceries or medicine.

It’s time that they receive fair wages, so that they can care for their families just as they do for so many others.

Meet the Author
We need to do more – not just to raise the minimum wage, but to make sure employers are paying their workers fairly for the critical work they do.

That’s why I’m helping to organize the June 12th Wage Action, and why I challenge my fellow PCAs and health care workers to take a stand with me. It’s time we make our voices heard.

Gerald Grooms is a personal care attendant who lives in Dorchester.