Worker Profiles

Kathy Kehnmetz
Employing agency: Sunrise School
Position: Childcare Worker
Years Experience: 7
Age 26
Hourly pay: $6.18
Home phone: 286-9817

We do all kinds of activities, teaching social skills. I work with two-year-olds right now, but I've primarily worked with infants.

It takes a while to get your heart into a place and put up with some of the cruddy parts like the pay and never having a sub and having to work sick. Turnover, especially of part-time staff is really high. Most of the unionized centers have paid holidays and pretty good benefits, but at Sunrise I started at $6.18.

Unfortunately this is turning into almost an unskilled profession because people with degrees don't want to work for the money that's available. And I don't think that just anybody can do it. Unfortunately a lot of centers have to settle for a warm body. We do have to get training, forty hours a year, but it doesn't seem like enough for someone who doesn't have experience. It's not something anybody can do. You have to be a physically and emotionally strong person.

The first five years of a child's life are the most formative. They lay the groundwork for what the public schools have to deal with. You can put the money in prisons or you can put it in child care.

For years I've wanted to go back to school and I've never been able to afford it. I make about $9,000 or $10,000 a year which is too much to qualify for financial aid, so I'd have to quit working for a while to get financial aid.

A lot of my coworkers are my age; we'd like to have kids ourselves but we can't because we couldn't afford to send them to our own centers.

Marvin Henderson
Employing agency: Dreamweavers
Position: Home Healthcare Worker
Years working with the disabled: 13
Years with current client: 4
Home phone: 242-9580

They say this kind of work is unskilled labor. You may start off unskilled but as you work with people you become very skilled. Whatever you do, you should make a living wage because everything is important. This is not a job where I'm going to a factory and building boxes, these are human beings with human needs.

People shouldn't have to have two and three jobs, like some of us do to make ends meet. People ought to be able to have one job and be able to survive on it. They shouldn't have to worry if they get sick, are they going to be able to go to the hospital and, "Am I going to be able to pay my rent today and my utility bill?" Or whether I'm going to be able to buy food. The basic living stuff should not be an issue. The job actually can be fun, but when you're stressed with all these things coming down at you the wrong way it becomes something you just don't want to deal with. You can't take it out on the clients, so you get frustrated.

At one time this industry paid more than McDonald's. Now the only thing that's still paying similar wages are hotel maids and janitors, all the fast food restaurants start their workers out at more than this industry pays.

When folks say there's no money around, I could really show them where they could save money, starting with all the people that have turned over in this house in the last few years. Just knowing that you are responsible for this individual can weigh on your mind. We've had at least three or four people leave for that reason. It was too much responsibility and it was scary, because they weren't trained correctly. They were good people, they meant well but they did not get started out the door correctly. You really do the client a disservice when you bring someone in here and burn them out in a month or two, and they leave with a bitter taste in their mouth so they will never do this kind of work again. Imagine yourself, every week you've got a new person taking care of you--this is very personal care they're doing. Every week you've got to worry about what kind of person is this? Are they going to be nice to me? Are they going to be mean to me?

If you hire the right person, train them right, give them good supervision and offer them a decent wage with decent benefits, you'd be hitting a grand slam home run.


Angela Doucette
Employing agency: Dreamweavers
Position: Home Healthcare Worker
Years Experience: 7
Age 25
Hourly pay: $6.18
Home Phone: 255-6736

I've worked in nursing homes, and as a home companion since I was 16. This isn't the best wage I've made, but I like the job, this is where I'd like to work. For a lot of people, maybe they would like to do this, but they can't support their families on it. How are they going to take a job like this that they like but that can't support their families?

I'm just getting by on two jobs. Maybe if this living wage went through I wouldn't have to work two jobs and I could get caught up on my bills. Then I could think about a future, a family. But right now I'm 25-years-old and I don't have the means to begin thinking about starting a family, you know, much less paying for a child's education or anything like that. It would be like giving me something to say, ok, now maybe a future is possible.

This job is a lot of responsibility. You can't have a 16-year-old coming in here and saying "oh, I'll just work when I want to work." You're dealing with people's lives, if you don't do this, they may die.

If you don't get five consecutive hours of sleep, then you'll get paid your regular wage for the night. Otherwise you're here for 6 or 8 hours that you aren't getting paid for. You can work a 20 hour shift and not get paid for 8. That's not appealing to anybody

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