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Fair Wage Rally

Fair Wage Rally

Unseasonably cold temperatures and a raw wind were not enough to dampen the spirits of a crowd of more than 400 that gathered at the Camp Venture Summer Camp grounds on Friday March 18, to rally for a fair wage for direct support workers. On hand were Assemblyman, Ken Zebrowski and Assemblyman, James Skoufis who lent their voices to a cry for funding a salary increase in the 2016 budget for the workers who provide care to area citizen’s with developmental disabilities.

An inter-agency event, organizers included the ARC of Rockland, Jawonio, Rockland County Association for the Learning Disabled/ YAI and the Camp Venture who played host. It was direct support staff, parents and service recipients though that quickly took the event over as the site of the former Letchworth Village State Institution came alive with chants of “a fair wage now” and “keep hope alive.”

“This is not right,” asserted parent, Kathy Abrams. “Our children need their staff,” she said to the applause of an audience that responded with a tense mix of enthusiasm and exasperation.

“We’re here for a fair wage but also to keep hope alive,” Camp Venture Executive Director said. And, as Carmine Marchionda, Executive Director of the ARC of Rockland, Jill Warner of Jawonio and Christine Rhinehart of RCALD/YAI each asserted in turn, “If the agencies don’t have sufficient support for a wage for their staff, they won’t have any staff and the already serious issue of staff vacancies will become a crisis.

With a budget expected to pass on time in April, the issue of a minimum wage increase has been the almost exclusive topic of this session. Advocates of the minimum wage increase have rallied behind Governor Cuomo while many business interests have pushed back with equal fervor in an attempt to thwart this proposed wage increase. In the middle are direct support workers whose salaries are tied to state Medicaid rates. There was no wage increase for direct support in the 2016 Executive Budget. And, though in fairness to Governor Cuomo, the belief is that he will support funding to agencies to meet the new minimum wage requirement as his proposal is implemented over the next two years, the concern is that the increases will not be sufficient to provide the necessary incentive required to keep qualified staff on the job. “We need people to work in a life and death business,” explains Camp Venture Executive Director, Dan Lukens. “Direct Support is not minimum wage work and so regardless of what happens to the minimum wage, our issue is whether we will be able to pay qualified people enough to keep them on the job,” said Lukens. “No staff is no care. It’s that simple.”

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2008 Rockland County Autism Symposium Venture Foundation Address
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