“Do you want to nominate somebody for the company board of directors? Someone who is a hard worker? Someone you respect? You can even nominate yourself!” It’s payday at Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, and some of the 1700 worker/owners are gathering for an information fair about retirement, health care plans and continuing education. Board member Christina Taylor greets them at the door and reminds them that this is their company and it is up to them to set policy, hire and fire the management.
Founded 25 years ago, CHCA is 100% owned by its workers who are also members of the Service Employees International Union. The cooperative has set new quality standards for home health care in the New York region while improving wages and working conditions for the women who typically provide these services. The coop’s clients are almost always low income people who qualify for Medicaid. And since Medicaid reimbursement rates are very low, so is the pay for home care aides. So CHCA lobbies for higher Medicaid pay scales.
For new home health workers, the coop provides five weeks of classroom and hands on training, and a guaranteed minimum number of hours of work each week. Office staff members sign up new clients, match home care aides to client needs, and provide telephone backup for aides who run into a problem on the job and need advice or assistance.
Gail Porter told us, “I’m a home health aide and three time board member. I’ve been on the finance and policy action committees. When I needed a job in 1995, I came here for training, and I’ve been here almost 17 years. I love the work I do.”