Home Care Workers Deserve a Living Wage

By Adelaide Baramburiye Manirakiza, Home Health Aide

My whole working life I have been helping people. When I lived In Burundi I worked for customs and advocated for people with HIV to be strong and to fight against the disease, and helped them learn how to protect themselves and others. When my husband died in the military, I realized that widows and orphans lost everything; we had no shelter, no electricity, and no health insurance. So I organized other widows and orphans in the army to fight for our rights. I was considered a dangerous woman by the government, so my life was in danger and I had to come to U.S. in 2007.

I have been working as a home care worker in Maine for the last 7 years. I started at $8.50 an hour, and now make $10 an hour during the day, but the agency I work for reduces my pay to $7.50 an hour for 8 hours each night because I should be sleeping. My job is to help people, and they need strong, good people who are alert and ready to help them. I don’t feel comfortable sleeping.

I work 48 hours a week, in a job that is hard and stressful, but I still don’t make enough to pay all my bills. I have MaineCare (Medicaid) for my health insurance, AVESTA for affordable housing, and have used TANF to get through hard times because the money I make through my job is not enough to cover all of our basic expenses. All four of my daughters are now in college. Sometimes I have to borrow money or get help from friends to help my daughters. Raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour would mean I could earn more to support my daughters in college and make sure their education positions them to be qualified to get paid more in this country.

Reprinted with permission from Mainers For Fair Wages.

How About a Fair Wage for Retail Workers

By Brandy Staples
I’ve worked retail jobs at big box stores on and off for many years. At these kinds of jobs, you need to be trained in several areas so that you can be pulled from what you are doing and told to do something else at any point. Retail work does not pay you for your expertise and knowledge; you must know how to do everything in your store at one low wage.
Every morning, at any retail establishment that I’ve worked, you will have a morning meeting to go over any store issues, the day’s finances and any promotions coming up. In this meeting be prepared to have everything be your fault. It’s your fault that the numbers weren’t met the day or the week before. It’s your fault that the customer refused add-on purchases. It’s your fault when the store is short-staffed and a customer steals $10,000 worth of merchandise (because there was no staff coverage for that area of the store). More than once, I’ve seen “offenses” like these be used to cut workers’ hours or strip down their job titles.

My biggest pet peeve about working in any retail establishment is the fact that minimum wage workers are the ones that are keeping their company afloat, while the big CEOs sit around and collect profits. The minimum wage workers, who are keeping the company alive, are not valued for their hard work. They are treated as a dime a dozen, usually get little-to-no recognition, and rarely get any benefits. This needs to stop.

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It’s Important, Exhausting Work. And It’s $10.35 an Hour

By Nicole Hodgkiss, Certified Nursing Assistant

I’ve been working as a CNA at a nursing home in Waterville, Maine for 6 years.  I live in Winthrop with my sister, who works as a hair stylist. At my job, I take care of elderly people and residents that live on a psych unit. It’s important, exhausting work – emotionally and physically taxing.  Yet, over 6 years I’ve received a total raise of a dollar. I now make $10.35 per hour.   The wage I make as a CNA doesn’t recognize the skill or commitment that I bring to my work, and it’s obvious that there’s really no opportunity for me to move up the wage scale.  It would be impossible for me to support myself on my own or even dream of raising a family on 10.35/hour.  I’d like to go on in my medical training but I’m not sure how on a low-wage that I would be able to afford it.  I know there are a lot of women in the same situation as me. For me and for my family, a minimum wage increase to $12 (or more) would be a shot at making ends meet.  It would mean that my work, and my mom’s work (she too is a CNA) was recognized and valued.

Reprinted with permission from Mainers For Fair Wages.