On Friday, July 15, 2016, service providers, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, self-advocates, dedicated employees, concerned parents, and legislators gathered outside of City Hall in Manhattan to demand fair wages and increased government support for direct care workers. The rally was organized by the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies Inc., (IAC,) and was led by IAC’s Peter Pierri, Executive Director, and Winifred Schiff, Associate Executive Director for Legislative Affairs.

Direct Support Professionals, special education teaching assistants, and other support staff such as cooks and drivers are not being paid a wage that they can live on,” Mr. Pierri said. “Statewide starting salaries average between $9.62 and $10.78. The jobs are complex and challenging and the pay is low. New York State owes these employees a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work!

Among the legislators who either attended the rally or provided statements of support were State Senators Martin J. Golden and Jesse Hamilton and Assemblymen David I. Werpin, Marcos A. Crespo, Joe Lentol, Harvey Weisenberg (retired), and Andrew Hevesi.

By providing direct care workers with a fair wage, we not only ease the burden for those who provide support to New Yorkers with disabilities but also guarantee a consistent level of care for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Assemblyman Werpin, who is Chair of the Assembly Task Force for People with Disabilities.  “I am proud to stand with [this] coalition and look forward to continuing our advocacy in Albany during the upcoming session.

Though New York State approved an increase to a $15 per hour minimum wage in this year’s budget, they did not provide requisite funding for service providers to pay the increase. Furthermore, DSP salaries were not provided with an adequate raise, meaning many employees in the field of disabilities services will soon be earning the same as others in less-demanding and less-skilled jobs outside of the human services field. This will lead to a crisis in staff recruitment and retention efforts for all service providers.

AHRC New York City programs represented at the rally included Brooklyn Day Services and Staten Island Day Hab Without Walls.

If you would like to show your support for these efforts, use the hashtag #bFair2DirectCare on social media, contact your local state representatives, and keep to up to date with further developments about these critical issues!