In a conversation with Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner, President David Rolf says “the old broken down machinery” of traditional labor unions needs to find new ways workers in the modern economy to find political power.
They also discuss the DSHS proposal to streamline IP employment administration and new Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan.
SEIU 775 member TJ Janssen recently wrote an opinion article for the Wenatchee World. The article is behind a pay wall, but you can read the entire piece below!
“George Will Should Walk in My Shoes”
By SEIU 775 caregiver TJ Janssen
It seems like more and more media sources these days are falling for cheap headlines and exciting — but inaccurate — stories.
A recent George Will column (“SCOTUS case could enhance public workers’ rights” Wenatchee World, December 23, 2017) is a good example of this. Mr. Will made it sound like my union, SEIU 775, was hurting caregivers and those we care for, and like a group called the Freedom Foundation was some sort of hero to workers.
But if you want to know the truth about something, go to the source. Find out what’s going on firsthand.
When it comes to SEIU 775, I’m a good source: I’ve been there since the very beginning days of the union and I can tell you that the union is the reason we’re able to live a little bit better while taking care of our loved ones.
When my fellow caregivers and I formed the union back in 2002, we were getting paid minimum wage, just a little more than $7 an hour. Now, our wages are at least double that, with healthcare, PTO, professional training, and retirement benefits.
What that means is that caregivers like me can start to afford a decent life for our families. That’s all we want, and that’s why we’ve joined together in a union to just get paid enough to have a safe home and enough to eat.
George Will doesn’t know that because he’s never walked in my shoes. He’s never talked to any of us caregivers to know what being in a union really means.
However, I’ve talked to someone from the Freedom Foundation. She came to my home and knocked on my door.
At first, I wasn’t going to talk with her at all: I know all I need to know — firsthand — about why I support my union. But I let her talk, and by the end of her visit, I felt sorry for her.
How much are they paying you to do this? I asked her. Minimum wage, she told me, hanging her head.
What kind of benefits are you getting? No benefits.
She added that she got benefits from one of her other two jobs. She had to work three jobs to make ends meet, while working for this group that claims to be helping working people.
She told me that her mom was a union member. I said, “And you’re out here doing this? Trying to talk people out of being in their unions?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Freedom Foundation stooped so low. When they failed to obtain personal contact info about caregivers through public records requests they resorted to buying stolen information from former union and training fund employees in early 2016. Those employees are now facing felony charges for trafficking in stolen property.
But the fact that the Freedom Foundation preyed on this desperate woman and others like her told me everything you need to know — firsthand — about who you should depend on to have your back.
TJ Janssen is a caregiver and member of SEIU 775. He lives in Wenatchee. SEIU 775 represents long-term care workers providing quality in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services in Washington State and Montana.
In early January 2018, SEIU 775 member Darryl Johnson was featured in The Atlantic. The piece “Low-Wage Workers Finally Get a Raise” written by Annie Lowrey focused on what a wage increase means.
“It has changed my life, and I have noticed the changes,” said Darryl Johnson, a home health worker based near Seattle, whose hourly rate has gone from $13.50 to nearly $15 over the past 18 months. “I have more food at the end of the month, and I’m not trying to stretch those groceries for a week and a half. I’m feeding myself better, and you need to work to eat and get out there.”
January 23, 2017
An open letter to leaders in business, labor and government:
Building a portable benefits system for today’s world.
The world of work is changing – driven by technological and economic developments that have reshaped the opportunities and challenges for workers in the twenty-first century. However, the American social safety system, which was designed in the 20th century for a very different economy, has not kept pace with today’s workforce.
At a basic level, everyone should have the ability to protect themselves and their loved ones when they’re injured at work, get sick, or when it’s time to retire.
Leaders across business, labor, and government have publicly recognized the need for action, but a myriad of legal, policy, and political hurdles have – to date – prevented meaningful progress toward a new portable benefits system.
These hurdles will only be overcome when parties are willing to sit down, put aside historical differences, and work together to develop a solution. Furthermore, while we applaud and support efforts at the national level, we believe there is great opportunity to take the first significant steps at the state level. The pursuit of local solutions will expedite the move from the theoretical into the practical, unraveling the thorny issues and beginning to show how a portable benefits system can empower workers and enable technology to meet the growing demand for more flexible, independent forms of work.
For these reasons, we are today coming together in an effort to develop an initial state-level portable benefits system.
The foundations of a portable benefits system.
We believe that such a system should be underpinned by the following principles:
Flexibility – continuing to deliver reliable economic opportunities that are available for people when they want it and leaving them in control through establishing a system of individual accounts that follow workers and enable them to readily change the nature, structure and intensity of their work while continuing to have access to social benefits or protections
Proportionality – ensuring that any new system accounts for differentiated and diverse connections to work through proportional contributions to be developed and determined through an ongoing independent, expert-driven process that recognizes the need to promote a rising standard of living as well as healthy, profitable businesses
Universality – build more resilience in our communities by ensuring that any new scheme is universal in its application and supports the movement, growth and development of people across businesses, industries, sectors and life stages regardless of how they get work while providing businesses with legal certainty over their work arrangements
Innovation – promote the development of innovative products and systems that respond to and enhance independent work, establish open platforms to enable all organizations to compete for contributions and create arrangements for social investments from private and public sources
Independence – ensure that independence and choice are paramount in the development of any scheme and that organizations act in the best interests of individual members
A shared commitment to action.
We firmly believe that renewing the social contract is both urgent and important.
We acknowledge that developing a first-of-its-kind scheme will involve business impacts, implications for worker and consumer protection, complexity in market design and regulatory framework and the need for prudential standards.
We commit to undertaking a collaborative process that involves all stakeholders and seeks to understand and account for these through data, evidence and an open process.
We call on business, labor and government in Washington state to join us in this effort, and come together to meet this critically important challenge.
The New York Times takes a peek into SEIU 775 Yakima caregiver Melissa Ringer’s world. The video is in 360 degrees, so use your mouse (or move your phone or tablet around) to look all around the room. Click here to watch the video on their site.
From the article:
“What a difference 15 years can make. Since SEIU 775 was chartered in 2002—after a bruising legislative battle that culminated in a ballot measure, Initiative 775, giving home care workers the right to unionize, and for the union to negotiate with the state on its members’ behalf—it’s grown from a scrappy, unconventional union representing 1,600 long-term caregivers to arguably the most influential labor organization in state and local politics with 45,000 members, including home care providers, nursing home employees and adult day health care workers. (The group also represents about 1,000 workers in Montana.) That growth has happened during a time when unions’ memberships and influence have been declining precipitously nationwide; currently, just 7 percent of private sector workers belong to a union. Today, SEIU’s members contribute 3.2 percent of their paychecks to the union, which uses the money to negotiate for a contract on their behalf and lobby for other pro-worker policies.
“In that time, SEIU’s political agenda has also expanded, from an advocate for low-wage, often isolated workers caring for elderly and disabled clients in their homes to a force to be reckoned with on issues ranging from fast-food workers’ wages to Seattle zoning laws.”
Long-term care is a cost that many families don’t know they’ll have to bear until it’s too late. The New York Times takes a look at programs in Hawaii and Washington aimed at helping middle-class families manage that burden.
From the story:
“Washington has been a leader in long-term care for many years. In 2017, it was ranked first in the quality and execution of long-term care in a study commissioned by AARP and several partner organizations. Representative Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat, and Representative Norm Johnson, a Republican, introduced a bill last winter called the Long-Term Care Trust Act, which would provide universal long-term care in the state. Everyone would contribute through a payroll deduction, and everyone would be guaranteed a long-term benefit if needed. The program would provide $100 a day to support caregiving across a range of care situations including at-home care, assisted living and nursing homes. Washingtonians have a strong track record of passing legislation on a similar model, including universal paid family leave in 2017 and universal paid sick leave in 2016. The bill is expected to be reintroduced in early 2018…
“The proposed legislation in Washington is limited to 365 days (consecutive or not) of caregiving support and the Kupuna Caregivers program is starting with a six-month trial period. With those limits, these programs aren’t meant to be lifetime care. But they offer options for families that can’t afford private insurance and don’t want to spend down retirement savings to qualify for Medicaid.”
SEIU 775 caregivers across Washington State came together and are proud to endorse the following candidates for elected office.
Make sure to drop your ballot in a dropbox, or mail it in by November 7.
Dropboxes close promptly at 8 p.m.
31st Legislative District, State House: Morgan Irwin
31st Legislative District, State Senate: Phil Fortunato
37th Legislative District, State Senate: Rebecca Saldaña
45th Legislative District, State Senate: Manka Dhingra
48th Legislative District, State Senate: Patty Kuderer
48th Legislative District, State Senate: Vandana Slatter
King County, County Executive: Dow Constantine
King County, County Council Position 3: Kathy Lambert
King County, County Council Position 5: Dave Upthegrove
King County, County Council Position 7: Pete von Reichbauer
King County, County Council Position 9: Reagan Dunn
Proposition No. 1 Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors and Vulnerable Populations: Vote Yes
Federal Way, Mayor: Jim Ferrell
Seattle, Mayor: Jenny Durkan
Tacoma, Mayor: Victoria Woodards
City Council Races
Auburn City Council, Position 6: Larry Brown
Burien City Council, Position 1: Pedro Olguin
Burien City Council, Position 3: Jimmy Matta
Des Moines City Council, Position 7: Chad Harper
Edmonds City Council, Position 3: Adrienne Fraley-Monillas
Federal Way City Council, Position 2: Jesse Johnson
Kent City Council, Position 2: Satwinder Kaur
Kent City Council, Position 4: Tye Whitfield
Renton City Council, Position 6: Ruth Perez
Sammamish City Council, Position 1: Jason Ritchie
Sammamish City Council, Position 5: Rituja Indapure
Seattle City Council, Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda
Seattle City Council, Position 9: M. Lorena González
Shoreline City Council, Position 5: Carolyn Ahlgreen
Spokane City Council, Position 1: Kate Burke
Spokane City Council, Position 2: Breean Beggs
Spokane City Council, Position 3: Candace Mumm
Tacoma City Council, Position 4: Catherine Ushka
Tacoma City Council, Position 5: Chris Beale
Tukwila City Council Position 5: Zak Idan
Tukwila City Council, Position 7: De’Sean Quinn
Kent School Board, Position 2: Maya Vendgadasalam
Port of Seattle, Position 1: Ryan Calkins
Port of Seattle, Position 3: Ahmed Abdi
Port of Seattle, Position 4: Preeti Shridhar
Seattle City Attorney: Pete Holmes
Please stay tuned for updates. SEIU 775 caregivers’ endorsements will be updated throughout the election cycle.
Home care aides are not taking a proposed $28.1 million cut to their healthcare benefits lying down.
Since April, caregivers have been organizing around the state to raise awareness about the life-altering budget cuts proposed by Senate Republicans. Demonstrators have called on their state senators to work across the aisle to find a way to support long-term-care service providers in Washington state.
State of Play for Home Care Aide Healthcare Benefits
State Republican Senators are attempting to fund tax breaks for the wealthy by defunding health insurance for caregivers. Under their budget, the Health Benefits Trust – the home care aide healthcare group – would suffer $28.1 million reduction in funding. To accommodate the loss in funding, the Benefits Group would have to change eligibility requirements and require a 500 percent increase in premiums, which could put the cost of healthcare out of reach for most caregivers.
There are thousands of caregivers all over the state who could see a rise in healthcare costs if the Legislature moves forward in gutting their healthcare.
Standing Stronger Together
For demonstrators like Cindy Thao and Bunrod Harvey, two local caregivers living Snohomish and King counties, Senate Republicans’ commitment to defunding their healthcare benefits prompted them to reach out to the public for support.
“Healthcare is not just a budget line item for tens of thousands of home care aides,” said Adam Glickman, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU 775. “Healthcare is a well-deserved safety-net when caregivers need care. This will impact thousands of caregivers. Even parents who sacrificed full-time careers could be forced off their healthcare if this budget cut goes through. If they become sick, who will care for their adult child?”
In addition to local demonstrations, home care aides have been calling and emailing their state senators urging them to vote against these massive cuts to caregiver health benefits. To date, SEIU 775 members made 5,300+ calls and sent 10,000+ emails into the Legislature.
The decision to save funding for the home care aide health-insurance program will be decided upon this fiscal year. Budget negotiations between the House and Senate have reached a stalemate after Gov. Inslee extended the regular legislative session through May 24.
To stand with caregivers, take action today by calling the legislative hotline at (844) 669-0064. Leave a message for your Senator telling them to stand with home care workers.