Caregivers Travel to DC to Defend the ACA
Contact Ashley (dot) Myrriah (at) seiu775 (dot) org
Dave Lindberg, one of SEIU 775’s most energetic and dedicated leaders and activists, passed away early Monday morning, November 9th.
“Dave embodies the very best of what it means to be a leader and a trade unionist,” said SEIU 775 President David Rolf. “Dave’s tenacity and courage led him all over the country fighting for justice. His leadership and activism made life better for thousands of caregivers, their clients and their families.”
Dave, known affectionately by his brothers and sisters as “Purple Papa,” joined SEIU 775 at its formation in 2002. His commitment to elevating caregivers led him to serve on IP bargaining teams that made landmark gains for home care workers, and he eventually became an Executive Board member in 2009. Dave was a dedicated parent provider, and worked on numerous organizing, legislative and election campaigns in support of long-term caregivers.
“Kindness, courage and compassion are words you hear over and over again when people describe their interactions with Dave,” said SEIU 775 Vice President Sterling Harders. “He was always positive and had an incredible ability to build individual relationships—it was impossible not to like him.”
Harder’s and others’ description was hardly overreaching; even in the week before his passing, Dave was visiting members and seniors, organizing and doing things to bring happiness.
“Dave always showed moral leadership and was a fighter with an ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to win’ attitude,” said SEIU 775 Secretary-Treasurer Adam Glickman. “His instincts were always to do what was right and he brought energy to everything he did.”
BOSTON, MA – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.
According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.
Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.
“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”
“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”
“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”
The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.
After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.
Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.
Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers also united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement and the local #WageAction coalition, helping to kick off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State with rallies in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester on June 12th, 2014.
Home care workers took to the streets again on April 14th, 2015 as part of a massive Fight for $15 mobilization that drew thousands to the streets of Boston. That Boston-based action served as the kickoff for similar coordinated protests in more than 200 cities and 50 countries across the globe.
Caregivers say they are excited that the picket action they had planned for their current contract expiration date of June 30th can now serve as a celebration of this achievement and the spirit of cooperation that made it possible.
“This is an inspiring moment for home care workers, but also for our children – and our children’s children,” said a beaming Rosario Cabrera, a home care worker from New Bedford, MA whose children Kendra, age 14, and Daniel, age 12, were with her at the negotiating session as workers cheered the new agreement with the Baker administration. “I am so proud that I can show my children and someday tell my grandchildren that I was part of this moment in history, that I was part of a movement for social justice. We want all home care workers to win $15 per hour – and to do it first in Massachusetts fills us with pride. It is evidence of what people can do when we organize and negotiate in good faith to reach common ground.”
“Not only is this going to help the PCAs, but this is going to help us as consumers because it’s going to be easier to hire an attendant now that they can receive a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard, age 31, a paraplegic consumer who lives in Brighton, MA. “In the past, consumer employers have had issues with getting PCAs simply because the wage wasn’t enough. This is going to make a huge difference in our lives, as well.”
In negotiations, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement extending the current collective bargaining agreement and establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Workers will receive an immediate .30 cent raise effective July 1, 2015, a portion of which will be paid retroactively once the contract is ratified.
A new round of discussions will then begin no later than January 1, 2016 to solidify details on the series of wage increases that will elevate PCAs to the $15 mark by the agreed upon date of July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, PCAs across the state will vote by mail ballot on ratifying the contract extension and the terms therein, including the commitment to establish a statewide minimum $15 starting rate.
SEIU 775 members have ratified a strong home care contract that makes real improvements to lift caregivers out of poverty. Still, before we get our raises and benefits, the Washington state Legislature must include funding for our contract and agency parity in their 2015-17 biennial budget. As Washington State begins its 2015 legislative session, we’ll be in Olympia fighting for our clients’ rights and the raises we deserve.
The contract features some major milestones for individual providers as well as agency home care aides:
We’ll be fighting for all these vital benefits in Olympia this session. By funding our contract, the Legislature will say that they support fair wages and respect for caregivers, and a better life for the clients we care for.
SPOKANE, Wash. – A group of home-care workers is wishing a happy Mother’s Day to the moms in the Washington congressional delegation – with a twist. It’s part of a national effort to show support for immigration reform.
On Tuesday, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers and Jaime Herrera-Beutler received their cards and a visit from members of “Caring Across Generations.” A Spokane home-care worker, Valerie Anderson-Webb, said she spoke with McMorris Rogers a few years ago about the congresswoman’s concerns about providing workers a path to citizenship.
“Now, we are appealing to her as a mother that has children,” she said. “Four years ago, she wasn’t there. I think now, she’s at least thinking about it.”
The Mother’s Day cards urge members of Congress to remember other moms in the state, and to ensure that the legalization process is fair to women, family members and low-wage workers. Cards are also being delivered this week to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
Anderson-Webb said she doesn’t see immigrants competing for current citizens’ jobs. Instead, she said, there’s a caregiving shortage that’s expected to worsen as the population ages. She said many immigrants already provide home-care services for Washingtonians with disabilities and the elderly.
“I believe that everyone’s created equal,” she said. “I really don’t think that they’re ‘illegal’ – because a lot of these people are contributing to society; they’re paying taxes as well as us. And there’s not enough caregivers to go around.”
Anderson-Webb said that in her union, SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest, members speak 50 different languages. Among their priorities are living wages and creating a career ladder that allows home-care workers to train and transition into careers such as nursing and social work.
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Candidate for Governor, Jay Inslee, spent a day working alongside Sherry Hunter, a home care aide and her client Phyllis Green from Renton.
Sherry Hunter said that Jay Inslee did a great job completing her every-day tasks. “It’s great to have a candidate for governor who actually cares enough to spend a day in our shoes,” she said.
“I learned a lot today. I’m going to stand by you and the long-term care services you provide,” said Inslee during his caregiving walk-a-day.
Sherry provides care for Phyllis Green, a 75-year-old woman who is an amputee and diabetic. Mrs. Green has lived for 49 years with her husband Paul Green in their two-bedroom home in Renton, WA. Both Mrs. and Mr. Green worked all their lives, and living at home is what keeps them upbeat and sustained.
During his day working with Sherry Hunter, Inslee cleaned house, did the laundry, vacuumed, helped her client get ready for her bath and washed her hair. Inslee was able to see first hand, how hard home care aides work and the importance of the services that they provide.
In an interview, Inslee shares with our union members how critical long-term care programs are for the state of Washington, the difference they make in the lives of clients who rely on these services and what he learned from walking a day in shoes of Sherry Hunter.
What did you learn the most from walking a day in a caregiver’s shoes?
Seeing Sherry’s work, what is really impressive to me is how much her client appreciates her and her work. The personal interaction is one of the more impressive aspects. Obviously, this is hard work. Sherry has showed me how she has to multi-task. She has to heat the water for a bath, get the bed ready, making sure her client can get from one place to another, and vacuum in a very compressed period of time. She has a lot of work that she has to do in only a few hours. She only works with her client for three hours, three days a week.
Also talking to Sherry about her training that she’s had to help her to recognize wounds and bedsores. That’s why I’ve always been a believer in training for folks for this kind of work. Both of those are important and it looks like Sherry knows how to do it.
What can we do to support long term care programs that save the state money in the long term?
I am running for governor, I hope to be the next governor of the state of Washington. It was really important getting in a person’s home to see first hand what long term care means in their lives. Sherry’s client was a hard working person and now to live in dignity in her own home is a real great thing for the state. What we can do is get more legislators and policy makers to understand why it is important.
This is good for the taxpayer too to keep people independent, so they don’t have to go to a home. We do this well in the state of Washington and it actually saves taxpayer’s money in the long term. That’s why having adequate provision is important, Sherry has told me that her client could use more hours to really do what needs to be done around here. Keeping that in mind in these budget discussions is important.
What difference do caregivers make in the state of Washington?
We all treasure our independence, we all treasure our freedom and living in your own home is both. Living at home is both your independence and freedom. Having a person like Sherry to give people that opportunity for additional years that’s a pretty sweet thing. It’s hard to measure in dollars and cents, but this care is what makes life worth living a lot. This is a really valuable thing for a lot of people across the state.
More than 11,000 home care workers get affordable health, dental, and vision benefits through the union contract and the Health Benefits Trust. But thousands of caregivers still lack any coverage – many have lost coverage because of hours cuts.
Our bargaining team made our proposal on health benefits yesterday, including:
At the bargaining session, numerous members shared their powerful stories of how lack of access insurance has affected them. Rhonda Paul, bargaining team member shared the story of how she lost her health insurance following cuts in her client’s hours. “Because of the cuts, I lost my health insurance. I’m seeing my clients suffer,” she said.
Last month, we began bargaining for a new contract covering more than 30,000 individual home care providers, with SEIU Healthcare 775NW presenting member priorities and some initial proposals to the governor’s bargaining team. During the sessions, our union laid the groundwork for our three primary goals: moving workers away from poverty, preserving our health insurance benefits, and restoring access to continuing education and advanced training.
We will continue to build a movement of caregivers standing for long-term care and a fair economy. Washington’s most vulnerable thank you for protecting critical services like home care. For more information call our member resource center at 1-866-371-3200.
During their “walk-a-days,” the city council members worked along side caregiver, assisting with many of their duties. We interviewed the council members, caregivers and clients about the need for long-term care and how it can make a difference in the lives of millions of clients who rely on critical services.
In Washington State, the amount of people needing homecare will increase in future years, with the number of seniors doubling to 1.5 million in the next 15 years. In response to the increasing need for homecare in Washington State and throughout the country, Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien are supporting the Caring Across Generations Resolution that addresses the lack of affordable quality care options for the elderly and people with disability, and the need to life caregivers out of poverty.
The Caring Across Generations Resolution was passed, making Seattle the first city in the country to pass local legislation around the issue of protecting critical services for our most vulnerable: people with disabilities and older Americans.
Home is what sustains Greg Majesky, a Seattle resident and quadriplegic who needs assistance in many of his everyday activities. Lawrence Chandler, a homecare provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member has cared for Majesky since 2008. Having a stable caregiver has improved his quality of life, says Majesky.
On June 5, Seattle City Council Member Mike O’Brien, walked a day in Lawrence Chandler’s shoes to shed light on the growing need in the Seattle area for homecare programs. He is joining a movement of policy makers, community activists, clients and caregivers who are advocating for dignity, respect and freedom for our seniors and people with disabilities and those who work hard to care for them.
City Council Member O’Brien visited Majesky’s home, arriving on bicycle despite the rain, to accompany Chandler in many of the tasks he performs everyday as a caregiver. From fixing a cup of tea, preparing breakfast, doing the dishes, administering medication, assisting Majesky in transferring out of his bed to his wheelchair to preparing Majesky for his shower that he gets three times a week.
Putting the spotlight on the growing care crisis in America, Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata walked in the shoes of Janet Rodriguez – a home care provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member. During his “walk-a-day,” Mr. Licata worked along side Janet, assisting with many of her duties as a caregiver.
Janet has provided care for the same Seattle client for more than 15-years, and faces many challenges due to lack of support for quality long-term care.
Bargaining for a new contract covering more than 30,000 individual home care providers got underway on April 26, with SEIU Healthcare 775NW presenting member priorities and some initial proposals to the governor’s bargaining team.
Washington legislature passed a budget with no new cuts to the long-term care safety net! Our calls, emails and in-person lobbying—literally by hundreds and hundreds of SEIU Healthcare 775NW members—made a difference.
This is a huge victory. The final budget includes no new cuts to long-term care and increases funding for Initiative 1163.
What a difference our advocacy efforts made; initial budget proposals would have eliminated adult day health, cut home care agencies so deeply that they would be put out of business, and included changes to eligibility that would have meant more than 1,000 people losing home care services.
In addition, legislators passed a bill to create 29,000 new jobs and legislation that closes some tax loopholes for out-of-state banks.