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Home Health-Care Workers Concerned That Their Raises Aren't Secure

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Home health-care workers in Missouri may be getting a Christmas present from Gov. Jay Nixon, in the form of an administrative rule to implement a pay hike.

But the proposed rule change appears to be a present they want to return or exchange.

Groups that support the workers, including their union representatives, oppose the use of an administrative rule to implement the wage hike because the Republican-led legislature can pass a resolution rejecting the rule. They favor an executive order instead.

Home health-care workers in Missouri currently earn a minimum of $7.50 an hour, but an agreement ratified in October by the state's Quality Home Care Council sets their wages between $8.50 and $10.15 an hour. The workers often live in the same homes as their patients and perform such tasks as clothing, bathing, feeding and shopping for them.

Home health-care workers and advocates pressed their case Thursday morning in a conference call with the media, asking the governor to issue an executive order.

An hour later, a group of home health-care workers stood outside the Governor's Mansion and sang some Christmas carols with altered lyrics highlighting their cause:

A few hours later, the governor's Office of Administration released the following statement:

"The governor supports the wage range provision of the labor agreement between the Missouri Quality Home Care Council and the Missouri Home Care Union that provides a pay raise for home health care workers.  To ensure the wage range provision of the agreement has the full force and effect of the law, the administration will be implementing the wage range recommendation through an administrative rule."

The Nixon administration has not said yet when that administrative rule would take effect.

Jeff Mazur of the Missouri Home Care Union criticized the move by the Nixon administration:

The Governor's new plan to implement a home care worker wage increase via the bureaucratic rule making process is unnecessary and unwise. For more than a decade, governors in Missouri have set wage floors for home-care workers without embarking on the rule-making process. This has been the case during Nixon's tenure and throughout all of Gov. Matt Blunt's term. Home-care workers reached an agreement in October that would increase attendants' wages from an average of $8.58 per hour up to $10.15 per hour, with no new cost to the state, using funds already appropriated by the General Assembly. Above all, we wish for the caregivers who enable our loved ones to live with dignity in their own homes to be given without delay the raise they have earned and negotiated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.