ARKANSAS NEEDS A RAISE

I.  Arkansas State Employee & Personal Care Aide Wage Analysis

7144 Arkansas families—6251 state employee families and 1893 Personal Care Aides—earn less than the Family Income Standard described by Advocates for Children and Families in their report, Making It Day to Day: A New Family Income Standard for Arkansas.

The Family Income Standard is a living wage.  It is defined as the amount of money required by a working Arkansas family with children to meet its ongoing, basic daily living needs without assistance for governmental agencies or private charities.  The standard includes the essential living expenses of families with children such as housing and utilities; food; child care; health care; transportation; clothing; personal care, household items and other miscellaneous items; and  taxes. 

2906 families employed by the state of Arkansas have family incomes below the Federal poverty level.  1512 of these are state employees, including 1394 Personal Care Aides, who are paid by the Health Department. Personal Care Aides take care of elderly people in their homes.  They receive no health insurance coverage.

These employees are not paid enough by the State of Arkansas to meet their families’ needs. They often must pick up second and third jobs so they can keep a roof over their children’s heads and keep them adequately fed and clothed.  This means that they have less time to spend with their kids than those with an adequate income.

II            Structural inequities

A. Percentage based raises unfair to lower wage workers

The state cost of living raises are based on percentage raises. This means that low wage employees receive much smaller dollar increases than those in the higher Grade Levels. Health insurance increases, which seem to follow state raises like clockwork, often mean that low wage employees see a very small increase- and sometimes no change- in take home pay after receiving raises.

            B Special Entry Rates unfair

State facilities may request special entry rates when the are unable to find employees in their markets who will work for the salary paid for that position. When Conway Human Development Center requested a Special Entry Rate for Life Skill Trainers, employees who’d worked there for two years had their salaries raised to the new level.  After six months, the newest employees got a six month raise. 

Those who’d been there- and who’d received a raise prior to the increase, earned less than the newer employees- although they had more experience, and often trained the newer staff!  Life Skill Trainers care for the individuals at the Human Development Center.  Those with seniority have a great deal of skill, but this pay plan does not reward them.

 III        Local 100 SEIU Solutions

Our members across the state, and their friends, will be meeting with legislators to get their support for the following:

*Raise salaries for low wage workers by providing upgrades to at least the Federal Poverty level. ($8.20/hour)  Pay Personal Care Aides what those who are state employees- or Public Health Technicians earn with this upgrade.

*Stop inequities caused by Special Entry Rates by providing upgrades to those people in positions effected by these rates. This includes Life Skill Trainers at the Human Development Centers, Certified Nursing Aides, Mental Health Workers, Licensed Practical Nurses,  Housekeepers, and Dietary workers.

*Provide supplemental raises to cost of living raises for those who earn less than $20,000 a year.  This will bring low wage workers’ raises closer to those received by employees in the higher Grade levels.

*Our members will continue to press the state, as they did during the special session, to use tobacco settlement and other funds to obtain a 3 to 1 match from the Federal Government to establish a health insurance program for working adults up to 100% of the federal poverty level.

*Establish a committee on Pay and Grade Restructuring , which will include appointees from the agencies, state employees (including SEIU members), legislative research, and members of the legislature.

IV    Questions to be answered by Committee on Pay and Grade Restructuring

1.   What can we do to revise the Pay Plan to provide living wages (Family Supporting Wages) to those paid by the state?

2.   What can we do to reward long term employees for service? (The current plan provides smaller raises for senior staff when upgrades are made.)

3.   What can we do to deal with the inequity caused by providing percentage raises. (Those in the higher grades take home much larger sums than those in the lower grades)

4.   What can we do to provide fair, equitable raises?  (When in the fiscal year an anniversary date falls, and inequitable ratings have produced unfair distributions of raises)

5.   How do wages paid for a particular position compare to those paid in the private sector?

6.   How do wages paid in Arkansas compare to those paid in other states?

7    In positions where the state receives Federal funds, how do salaries compare to those paid in other states receiving Federal funds for the same positions?

8    If other states pay considerably more for those doing the same job with Federal funds, how do they do it. ?(Is there additional revenue from other sources, or do they use a larger portion of the Federal money to pay salaries.?)