My name is Gail Ennis and I’m the president of the union that represents IHSS Caregivers in Humboldt County. I recently served as a panel member for the fact finding hearing that was charged with sifting through over 10 years of ignoring the needs of your county’s seniors and disabled persons, and those that care for them.
During the fact finding hearing, county officials never claimed the inability to provide a wage increase or any type of health benefits for the county’s IHSS workers; even going as far as to state that they believed there was NOT a problem with the IHSS program in Humboldt County. After two days filled with hours of evidence presentation and witness testimony, an impartial third party who served as the fact finding hearing’s chair, emphatically disagreed.
In the fact finding report’s recommendations the fact finding chair stated that, “The county clearly has the ability to pay the modest increases sought,” and that, “When it came to the issue of wages and healthcare benefits for care providers, the union makes the more compelling case.”
In rendering his decision, the fact finder cited that county IHSS Caregivers were the lowest paid employees in the county and the lowest paid IHSS caregivers in California. He also noted that while nearly every county in California had found a way to increase wages for its IHSS caregivers, Humboldt somehow had not.
Unfortunately, the county released an official statement on behalf of the county IHSS public authority that attempted to discredit the fact finder and disregard recommendations that revealed years of willful neglect directed towards over 1,400 county IHSS providers. In its bumbling attempt to downplay the fact finding report, the statement claimed that the fact finder had “misunderstood” important concepts during the fact finding process.
When contacted about the recommendations included in the fact finding report the impartial chair stated, “I am quite confident I did not misunderstand important concepts presented in this fact finding. The findings are correct.’’
In its shameful rejection of the fact finding report’s recommendations and admission of its ability to improve wages for county IHSS caregivers, the county demonstrated its commitment to promoting poverty for those that care for the county’s most vulnerable populations.
I find it deeply troubling that the county’s Director of Health and Human Services, Phillip Crandall, repeatedly stated that Humboldt County was “a poor county” during the fact finding hearing; this despite his lofty six figure annual salary and the bloated salaries of the county’s board of supervisors. Both have been covered by the local media and have served as grand jury subject matter over the course of the last several years; a fact Mr. Crandall seemed completely oblivious to during the fact finding hearing.
Mr. Crandall’s devotion to impeding any effort to improve the lives of the county’s homecare community is matched only by the county supervisors’ nauseating commitment to promoting the most damning lie exposed during the fact finding hearing: The county can’t afford to care for those who care for its most vulnerable. As residents of Humboldt County you have an obligation to your families and fellow community members to demand honesty and accountability from what has become a cesspool posing as your local government.
In a closed session board meeting earlier this week, each of your county supervisors voted against adopting the fact finding report’s recommendations. So even after reviewing recommendations from a third party that completely debunked the lie that the County’s financial situation prevents it from doing the right thing, each one of your elected officials chose otherwise. So just to recap:
The county admitted to having adequate funds to increase wages for county IHSS caregivers.
The impartial fact finding chair used this fact to render a recommendation that he referred to as “fair and equitable.”
The board of supervisors discussed the fact finding report in closed session.
The board of supervisors agreed to do nothing.
When I visit your county I never cease to be amazed by the natural beauty within it. However, I’m also sickened by the actions of your supervisors and a handful of county department heads. Their blatant disregard for nearly 3,000 county residents that provide and receive services through the IHSS program harms your entire community and continues to cultivate what has become fertile ground for self-enhancement for county leadership, and systematic impoverishment of the county’s poorest working families.
I implore you to help thousands of your fellow Humboldt residents by writing, texting, emailing, and calling not only your supervisors but also your legislators. Please call the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors at 476-2396 today and tell them: The facts don’t lie.
Implement the IHSS fact finder’s recommendations and be fair to those who care. End the shame of minimum wage. Despite the arrogant backwardness of your supervisors, your legislative district boasts some of homecare’s greatest champions, former Humboldt Supervisor Wes Chesbro (Phone: 916-319-2101) and Noreen Evans (Phone: 916-651-4002). Both sent staff members to attend the fact finding hearing and have taken an interest in Humboldt’s homecare crisis.
Call today and make your voice heard. Because Humboldt County deserves better.
Gail Ennis is the President of California United Home Care Workers Local 4034