The making of “Below the Line: Walking a day in a PSW’s shoes”

Cidalia is a 52-year-old SEIU Healthcare member from Cambridge and appears in a video we produced to show people just how hard it is to get by on a $1,500/month salary. During an election period, it’s easy for politicians and activists alike to keep repeating the mantra of “frontline workers” and “poverty-level wages”, without knowing what it actually means to fall behind on bills while working hard all day to keep people well and functioning at home.

So we decided to produce a video that would have an emotional impact, showing Cidalia’s day from her own point of view, hoping that it will drive home reality for people. Homecare and community care PSWs in Ontario were promised a raise of $4/hour over the next few years. They deserve a “Sweet $16,” but if Hudak is elected, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

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Shoot day wasn’t easy. We were set up in Cidalia’s home, in her space on her day off. We were fortunate that she volunteered her time for the campaign. She was in good spirits all day. But the interview portion was difficult emotionally. It was hard for her to talk about her financial worries. And thousands of workers (there are over 30,000 of these homecare and community care PSWs in Ontario) are in the same boat.

The idea for this video series originally came from a project by our SEIU sisters and brothers in the states, who even did a “walk-a-day” with then-Senator Obama. Here in Canada, SEIU Healthcare first did a “walk-a-day” with our member Juliette and Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews. Matthews has since shown the video several times in public, including at the historic homecare raise announcement on April 29, 2014. Seeing what PSWs do day in and day out—that experience really seemed to stick with her.

Over the next several months, we hope to share more “walk-a-day” videos with you to show homecare workers’ real stories and let people know about the four concrete things we need to do to fix the homecare system.

G.W.

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