On Wednesday the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee of the Seattle City Council met, with committee members Nick Licata, Sally Bagshaw, and Bruce Harrell in attendance.
Three major topics were addressed in the meeting.
First, a number of nominees for city boards and councils were approved, with several of them appearing and answering questions from the committee about their backgrounds and desire for appointments. These included musician and music manager Ricardo Frazer and DeVon Marnier, who were nominees for the Seattle Music Commission. The committee recommended the nominees be approved.
Next, a team from the Human Services Department of the City of Seattle gave an update about work on the senior utility discount program, the commission on sexually exploited children, and on homeless intervention. Progress is being made.
Third, the meeting featured testimony related to a resolution supporting the “Caring Across Generations” campaign. This campaign is aimed at supporting the rights of domestic caregivers, and the testimony outlined how the hours are often long, pay is low, and the conditions are often not good. Additionally, because many care givers are immigrants to the United States, they are in a vulnerable position legally. The campaign was represented by members of four supporting organizations, Robby Stern of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, Kassandra Gonzalez of Casa Latina, also a domestic worker, Sylvia Liang of SEIU 775, who is also a domestic worker, and Jeannette Wenzl, senior citizen, former nurse, and representative of the Washington Community Action Network (WCAN).
Robby Stern started the testimony, outlining the impending increase in the elderly population because of the aging of the Baby Boom generation and the expected need for an increase in domestic care givers to serve that population. He outlined the current job situation of many domestic care givers as well as how Change Across Generations would like that to change that situation. Gonzalez and Liang shared stories about the conditions they’d experienced as domestic workers. In particular, Gonzalez recounted how not having health insurance had effected her life through having to pay medical expenses for a recent injury.
Council members Licata, Bagshaw, and Harrell recounted how domestic care givers had effected their lives, and how their lives had intersected with the responsibility of taking care of elderly relatives.
The city council chamber was filled with supporters of Change Across Generations, many waving small flags with the campaign logo. Casa Latina and the SEIU supporters were well represented. When the resolution was approved by the committee, cheering broke out in the audience.
The resolution itself does not obligate Seattle to specifically do any thing regarding domestic care givers but expresses support for the principles and values of the campaign. Similar pushes are happening on the state and federal levels.
The resolution will now be referred to the full council for a vote.
John S. Madziarczyk