U.S. labor secretary meets with home health care workers in Las Vegas – Las Vegas Sun

Labor Secretary Meets with SEIU Local 1107

Wade Vandervort

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh greets members of the Nevada SEIU Local 1107 labor union in Las Vegas Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

By (contact)

When Shanieka Cooper’s son was hurt in a 2020 robbery attempt, she left work to stay home and take care of him. Her job as personal care attendant, however, didn’t give her paid time off or sick days.

This was in the beginning of the pandemic, which added to the stresses Cooper and other home health care aids were already under.

“A lot of us caught COVID, and it was our union members that covered each other,” Cooper said. “That was a tough time, and I’m glad for us to be here today.”

As the country begins to exit the pandemic, the Biden administration has targeted the home health care industry for investment. The administration’s omnibus infrastructure package, the American Jobs Plan, earmarks $400 billion for home health care.

On Wednesday, Cooper attended a meeting among federal Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, home health care advocates and representatives of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107. It was part of Walsh’s nationwide tour to drum up support for the American Jobs Plan.

“We ask you to take care of our loved ones every day and in some cases, you don’t get the respect you deserve working that field,” Walsh said.

“The pandemic, what it did really do, is shine a spotlight on an industry that needs real investment,” he said.

Irma Nunez, a personal care attendant, said working during the pandemic has been “very hard, very scary and very confusing.”

“Patients were scared,” Nunez said. “I had a lot of patients who were psychologically scared of everything that was happening.”

She said she struggled to find personal protective equipment like masks and gloves during the pandemic’s early stages and that it was expensive.

Cooper said the pandemic showed how essential home health care workers are. She became emotional when discussing the deaths of three of her clients during the pandemic.

“Our clients are our families as well,” Cooper said. “We’re with them every single day.”

Cooper said Walsh’s visit made her feel officials are paying attention to the struggles she and others have been through and that they are not being “left by the wayside.”