A dozen protesters affiliated with the Service Employees International Union occupied the state Office of Administrative Hearings in Vancouver and staged a sit-down strike at closing time Tuesday to protest recent state cuts to in-home care.
Five of the demonstrators chose to be arrested after repeated warnings from police. They were taken into custody on suspicion of misdemeanor criminal trespassing.
They said they were protesting cuts to work hours for in-home care services paid for by the state Department of Social and Health Services. Effective Feb. 1, the cut of eight hours per month affected Medicaid clients who live 45 minutes away from central services such as grocery stores or receive off-site laundry services from their home care provider. The cut means home care providers lose work hours, which affects their overall income.
“DSHS did this with an emergency rule, which means they didn’t go through the Legislature,” said Benton Strong, a spokesman for SEIU Healthcare. SEIU represents home care workers paid by the state.
“They didn’t tell the Legislature; they didn’t tell the union,” Strong said. “We found out after clients received letters that their hours were being cut.”