Tag: wage gap

Human Services Professionals Help All of Us. It’s Time to Pay Them What They’re Worth.

Comparison of wages across industries, showing 37% wage gap for nonprofit and human services workers and 30 percent wage gap for human services workers
Image via UW Wage Equity Study

By Michelle McDaniel, Janice Deguchi, Jen Muzia, and Amarinthia Torres

If your children have attended child care or after-school programs, if you’ve accessed a food bank, or if you are a renter (or a landlord) who received rental assistance during COVID, your life has been touched by a human services professional. Human services professionals support Seattle’s human infrastructure. They work in child care, emergency shelters, food banks, family centers, home visiting programs, senior centers, and youth development programs. And their pay is so low that, too often, they can’t afford to stay in these jobs.

Sustaining our human services infrastructure requires compensating human service workers equitably, in alignment with the difficulty and responsibility of the work they do. City officials and nonprofit leaders agree that wages for human service workers do not reflect the education required, difficulty, or value of their work. These are workers who hold college and advanced degrees, speak multiple languages, and often share the lived experience of the people they serve. It is shameful that human services professionals are often paid so little that they qualify for the support programs they administer.

How far behind are human services wages? A 2022 City of Seattle-funded study conducted by the University of Washington School of Social Work found that King County human service workers are paid at least 37 percent less than workers with comparable skill sets in other industries. The report provides irrefutable evidence that human service workers—who are disproportionately women and people of color—are significantly underpaid for the essential work they perform.

The primary near-term recommendation in the report is an immediate seven percent increase to all city of Seattle-funded human service contracts, which represents the minimum level of investment needed in the short term to address high rates of turnover and align human service worker pay with the rest of the labor market

Low wages result in high turnover and vacancy rates, which are preventing human service nonprofits from being able to fulfill their mission. From early learning classrooms unable to open to delayed affordable housing projects, low wages are preventing human services providers from hiring the staff to implement critical community services.

By funding the study on wage equity across industries, the city of Seattle has already taken a meaningful first step toward addressing the crisis in human service worker pay. The report provides a number of evidence-based recommendations that the city can implement now to begin closing the gap.

The primary near-term recommendation in the report is an immediate seven percent increase to all city of Seattle-funded human service contracts, which would enable nonprofit service providers to increase their employees’ pay across the board. This represents the minimum level of investment needed in the short term to address high rates of turnover and align human service worker pay with the rest of the labor market. This increase needs to be funded in addition to inflation adjustments already guaranteed under city law.

Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has introduced a resolution that would put the council on a path to adopting this set of recommendations in the coming years. We urge supportive community members to send a message to their council members supporting this legislation at this link.

Over the next few years, the city of Seattle has an opportunity to build on these investments and support the substantial wage increases recommended by this report. We call on City leaders to work in concert with other public and private funders to identify revenue necessary to pay the full cost of providing essential, life-saving human services to all Seattle residents.

Michelle McDaniel is CEO of Crisis Connections and Co-Chair of the Raising Wages for Changing Lives campaign.

Janice Deguchi, is Executive Director of Neigohborhood House and Co-Chair of the Raising Wages for Changing Lives campaign.

Jen Muzia is Executive Director of the Ballard Food Bank and Co-Chair of the Seattle Human Services Coalition.

Amarinthia Torres is Co-Director of the Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence and Co-Chair of the Seattle Human Services Coalition.

Morning Crank: By the Numbers

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

1. $1 million: The amount of money Mayor Jenny Durkan said Pearl Jam has agreed to donate from the proceeds of two reunion shows in August to support the cause of ending homelessness .

2. 75: The number of people appointed to serve on One Table, a group of business, civic, nonprofit, activist, and elected leaders from around the region that is charged with coming up with solutions for the “root causes” of homelessness, identified as a lack of affordable housing, inadequate access to behavioral health treatment, negative impacts on kids in foster care,  criminal history that impacts many people’s ability to find housing and employment, and “education and employment gaps making housing unattainable and unaffordable.” The committee met for the first time on Monday morning.  They sat at many different tables.

3. 200,000: The approximate number of people in King County who live below the federal poverty level, currently $16,240 for a two-person household).

4. 29,462; 24,952 The number of people King County says became homeless in 2016, and the number who exited homelessness that year, respectively. After a press conference following the One Table event Monday, King County Department of Community and Human Services director Adrienne Quinn acknowledged that the number of people who are no longer listed the county’s Homeless Management Information System doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of people who are currently housed, either permanently or temporarily; 11,767 of the 24,952 recorded “exits” are listed as “destination not reported,” which means that they could be in jail, in an institution, in drug or alcohol rehab, or on the street. The only criteria for an “exit” from homelessness is that a person hasn’t sought any housing or services in King County in the past three months. “Exits from homelessness” also include hundreds of people who left the shelter system voluntarily to go back on the street; those are listed, paradoxically, as an exit from homelessness into the category “unsheltered.”

5. 35,000: The approximate reduction between 2007 and 2016 in the number of housing units that were affordable to eople making less than 50 percent of the Seattle area median income, which was $33,600 for an individual, $48,000 for a family of four, last year.

6. Three: Number of times reporters asked King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan if they planned to dissolve All Home, the agency that nominally coordinates efforts to address homelessness throughout the county, and replace it with a regional agency that would have the authority to actually implement policies, which All Home (whose director, Mark Putnam, recently resigned) does not.

7. Zero: Number of times either official answered the question directly. (Constantine also deflected questions about whether there would be a tax measure on the next November ballot to fund whatever solutions the group proposes.)

One (metaphorical) table.

8. 94: The percentage of people who have been booked into jail four or more times in the past year who suffer from some behavioral health condition, according to Brook Buettner, who manages the county’s “Familiar Faces” initiative.

9. $250. The amount Seattle CityClub, the civic engagement organization that holds monthly “Civic Cocktail” panels at the Palace Ballroom, is charging for its “Civic Boot Camp” on “Housing the Homeless,” part of a series of immersive, one-day trainings that take people who want to get involved in Seattle’s civic life on a deep dive into a single issue. Past boot camps have covered immigration, livable neighborhoods, and the waterfront. The high price of entry raised the eyebrows of some advocates for Seattle’s homeless residents, who wondered if that money would be going to agencies that provide housing and services or into CityClub’s coffers.

Diane Douglas, CityClub’s executive director, says the admission fees pay for scholarships for people who can’t afford to pay full price, stipends for the people who give presentations to the boot campers, food purchased from neighborhood businesses, and to rent space for the day from organizations working on the issue. In the case of the homelessness boot camp, she says, it makes more sense to spend the remainder of the fee supporting CityClub’s mission to get people engaged in the community by volunteering, campaigning for candidates, or donating to groups that provide direct services than to donate the proceeds directly to those groups. “When we survey people six months or a year later, we know that they’re volunteering more, they’re donating money, they’re communicating with elected officials,” Douglas says. “The purpose is really to get them engaged in the community. It’s a substantial amount of money for a day of training, but the idea is to leverage all those people so they’re all giving $250, so they’re volunteering, so they’re voting on the issues and causes that they’ve learned about.”

10. 77.4 cents: The amount a woman currently earns in Seattle for every dollar made by a man doing equivalent work, according to a presentation the Economic Opportunity Institute gave to the city council’s Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights committee last week. Non-white women make significantly less than white women across the board, with black women, on average, earning the least; the wage gap is largest, at 29.3 percent, between Asian-American men and women.

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