Maryland care workers: 'We deserve a higher minimum wage, too'

The Maryland state capitol. (Photo: Richard Martin, Jr.)

(WJLA) - For six years, Thomasina Williams has looked after Joseph Kaplan's every need.

Williams is a direct-care worker in Kaplan's Silver Spring home, under a state-administered program for the disabled.

"This job is the most fulfilling I've had in my life," Williams told ABC7. "We depend on each other every day."

There are about 18,000 care workers in Maryland. They make an average of just over $9 per hour.

"It's hard, money-wise....because the Metro goes up every day," Williams said. "It's a challenge, you know, scraping pennies together just to get to work, have food to eat."

As the Maryland state minimum wage seems poised to go up to $10.10 an hour, Williams and other care workers are hoping to do better as well - and they have a powerful ally in state Senator Mac Middleton of Charles County.

As chair of the finance committee, Middleton said he is planning to amend the House-approved minimum wage bill to include a provision that care workers make 35 percent more than the new minimum.

Middleton said it's a matter of providing enough caregivers for the thousands in Maryland who need help.

"I talked with one of my local providers - right now, there is a 39-percent vacancy rate," Middleton told ABC7.

However, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has said there may not be enough money to fund Middleton's idea.

Therefore, hundreds of care workers and their clients marched on the state house to make themselves heard on Wednesday.

Joyce Lipman told ABC7 her disabled daughter's future depends on it.

"Think about it - if these folks have minimum-wage jobs, how many are we going to be able to find? How are we gojng to be able to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society?" Lipman asked.