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Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth: Pushing Through Health Care Workers’ Raise

During a special session of the Nassau County Legislature on July 26, the Democrats nixed a Republican attempt to cut the $1 per hour salary raise that was scheduled to go to home health care workers effective Aug. 1 (under the Nassau County Living Wage law). Leading the fight for the raise was Great Neck’s Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth, who called the Republican’s proposed raise cut “an assault on the ability of health care workers to maintain an acceptable standard of living.”

Legislator Bosworth told the Great Neck Record: “The Democratic Caucus and members of the workers’ unions ultimately persuaded the Republican legislative majority to abandon their proposal, introduced by Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt on July 2, 2010, to change the living wage rate from $12.50 to $11.50.”

The Living Wage Law had been unanimously passed by the Nassau County Legislature in 2006. That law provided for a phase-in salary increase from $9.50 per hour to $12.50. The last $1 dollar increment was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, 2010 and now will happen.

Legislator Bosworth said that she had been “truly surprised when the Republican majority proposed a local law to prevent our hard working home health care providers from receiving the $1 an hour raise that was provided in the 2006 Living Wage Law.” She said that it was “hard for me to understand how the Living Wage could be found to be $12.50 an hour in the year 2006 and then redefined to be $11.50 an hour four years later in the year 2010.”

Legislator Bosworth continued, stating: “I felt strongly that we had a responsibility to make sure those who provide a better quality of life for our parents, grandparents and children with disabilities, by allowing them to receive care in their own homes, earn enough money to provide a better quality of life for themselves.”

The Republican majority’s proposal to cut the $1 raise reportedly came on the heels of claims made by some home health care agencies that they could not afford to implement the increase. But, according to Legislator Bosworth, the Republican opposition to allowing the final $1 per hour increase “faded after health care agencies failed to provide any evidence of financial hardship if the raise went through.”

The Nassau County Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt told Anton Community Newspapers, “I introduced this bill because of the disgraceful way the State of New York has turned its back on Long Island, with MTA cuts, the MTA payroll tax… now these home companies have had their reimbursement rate cut by the state while our cost to them is going up… That is a premise for discussion - they said no one else is listening. So, we let them make their case.”

Presiding Officer Schmitt added, “We gave these providers one last opportunity to make their case that hardship would result from an increase.”

“They failed,” Schmitt said after the hearing. “Everyone on the legislature agreed that they didn’t do it. There was no specific example of agency x will turn back this number of county contracts, or agency y will lay off this many workers. So we rejected the item and the wage goes into effect.”

Schmitt said after the hearing that as a result of this experience, he will not support future pay mandates, sharing, “I am not passing any more automatic increases unless they are [based on the] cost of living. It is wrong to dictate specific dollar amounts for the future when you don’t know what the future holds.”

Minority Leader Diane Yatauro stated: “We are talking about hard working people who earn approximately $22,000 per year performing tasks that most of us would shy away from. Keeping this $1 commitment was not going to place anyone in jeopardy. It was simply the right thing to do.”

Legislator Bosworth strongly believed that the promised raise was crucial as “so many people in our community are able to remain in their homes due to the hard work and caring of the people who provide them home health services … many of our aging residents are able to remain in their homes in our community because of the dedication and hard work of home health care workers.”

She continued, stating that: “We depend on these health care workers to provide care and comfort to our parents and grandparents who need that extra support to continue living more independent lives in the comfort of their homes.” And she asked: “How is it possible to begrudge them the ability to earn enough so that they can at least stay above the poverty level?”

Legislator Bosworth told the Record that she “sees this as a signature issue for her at the county legislature.”