As many of you have experienced, the workforce challenges have not lessened in any aspect of our society. For the past few years, this has been attributed to such things as a strong economy that tempted people to try new careers or to the COVID-19 crisis that created family challenges and health concerns for many, leading people to reduce their hours or stop working altogether. Today, we have a full-blown crisis due to a greatly reduced workforce in all areas of our economy. Our staff continue to do an amazing job, but due to unfilled vacancies, a shrinking pool of relief staff, and the impact of inflation on the cost of living, these workforce challenges are affecting us more than ever.
The most recent state budget raised pay rates for some of our programs. These raises will allow Lifeworks to launch Phase Two of our unprecedented Three-Year Compensation Plan. As a part of this plan, our Board of Directors committed to increasing our pay rates for Direct Support Professionals by at least $3.50 per hour over a 24-month period. This pay increase will help our agency take strong steps towards supporting our staff … but it is not enough.
Our goals are simple:
- We need to come together, as a staff, an agency, and as a movement to get the Massachusetts Legislature and the governor to recognize the incredible value of this workforce;
- We need to support this workforce so that our staff can view working at Lifeworks as a valued career;
- We need to step forward with legislation and plans to raise the average pay rates for all levels of DSPs in our field to at least $20 per hour; and
- We need to get state and federal departments to recognize human service workers with their own labor classification under the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This classification – available in professional fields similar to ours, such as health care and education – needs to be developed for human services workers, too, so that when pay rate reviews are done, the proper comparisons are utilized and the value of these positions is appropriately recognized.
Over the next year, you will receive communications from me, as well as Lifeworks and the Arc of Massachusetts, seeking your assistance in advocating with our local, state, and federal elected officials, to seek support for these very important funding initiatives. Often, the families of people we serve and supporters of our agency will ask me what they can do to help with challenges like the workforce crisis. The answer is simple: When we reach out asking people to make phone calls, send emails or letters, or attend advocacy events, please try to join us. We need your help and your voice.
We know the importance of this issue, we know the importance of our employees and their role in the lives of the people we support, and we know how essential these services are for all. Thank you for all that you do for the people supported by Lifeworks and our staff.
Dan Burke, President/CEO
PS: Please take a moment to contact your Legislator. Here is the link to the New Workforce Action Alert: Contact Your Legislators About The Economic Development Bill.