SEIU 775 Sisters, Brothers, Siblings,
This summer has been filled with caregivers taking action in ways we haven’t had a chance to do in the past couple years. As you’ll read in this newsletter, we’ve had caregivers come together in Washington, Montana, and even Alaska for pickets, bargaining, political education, celebrations, and more!
And, in September we’re coming together for one of my favorite 775 events, our Leadership Conference. This is our first in-person conference since 2019 and we’re excited to see those who are able to make it!
It’s been an exciting year so far with a lot to be proud of and we’re looking forward to sharing what our future holds for caregivers and our Union in the coming months.
Stay safe, stay cool, and have a great rest of your summer.
— Sterling Harders, SEIU 775 President
Nursing home workers picket Arcadia Talbot for higher wages
“On June 8, nursing home workers – from my facility and others from around the state – and home care workers joined me for an informational picket outside our facility Arcadia Medical Resort at Talbot in Renton, WA. We were there to draw attention to the low wages and unsafe working conditions happening there.
This year, the State legislature provided $48 million directly for nursing home worker wages because of our Union! But Arcadia Talbot refused to do the right thing – the required thing. After 15 bargaining sessions, they were still offering only 2% wage increases and they wanted to keep the rest of that money for themselves. So, we had to let the world know what they were doing and why that’s wrong.
We had many members come out for our informational picket, as well as Representative Mia Gregerson, Valley Hospital Commissioner and SEIU 775 member Monique Taylor-Swan, and our Union president Sterling Harders. People heard our stories and they heard why change needs to happen. And I think we sent a message to Arcadia Talbot. I know we did because management proposed significant wage increases.
We were able to make this possible because we came together and demanded better for ourselves and our residents. At the end of the day, our resident’s lives depend on it.”
— Linda Long, CNA, Renton, WA
Caregivers organize hundreds of Montana caregivers
“In July a team of member organizers from Washington and Montana started working on an organizing drive for the workers of Consumer Direct in Montana. This was different than anything I’d done before. It was the first time I’ve talked to non-union workers about what it means to be a part of our Union.
I knocked on more than one hundred doors over 14 days and had dozens of conversations with my neighbors. What I found was that people want change. They want more of a say in what happens at the workplace, they want higher pay, they want better benefits – and that’s why they want a union. I’ll never forget this experience of sharing my story with caregivers, and I know I’ll remember some of the stories I heard from other caregivers forever.»
— Delphine Camarillo, AP, Billings, MT
SEIU 775 celebrates new funding with Alaska caregivers
“Through hard work and sharing our stories with legislators over the last several months, caregivers in Alaska have won an annual 10% rate increase ($32 million this year) to fund pay increases! And in June, we got to celebrate that win and all our work together in person with more than 100 caregivers, our clients, our families, SEIU 775, and legislators who support us.
I spoke at the event about everything we did – testifying, writing letters, calling our legislators – to make this happen. It gives me so much hope to see what we can accomplish when we are together. We were in Anchorage, but we celebrated with caregivers from across the state. This is our first step forward in getting the recognition we deserve as essential healthcare workers in a state that has the fastest-growing senior population per capita in the country.
Speakers also included Alaska Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson, Alaska Representative Liz Snyder, and SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders.”
— Leonilei Johnson, Personal Care Assistant/Caregiver, Juneau, Alaska
SEIU 775 has been working in Alaska supporting caregivers over the last year in their fight for higher wages, benefits, and more. More news to come about our work in Alaska!
Rate Setting Board: Higher wages, dependent coverage, and more
“In April, I joined a handful of SEIU 775 members to participate in the newly established Rate Setting Board. The Board, which is made up of 14 people including caregivers, SEIU 775, and advocates for seniors and people with disabilities, will set the hourly Medicaid reimbursement rate for the Consumer Direct Employer (CDE), effectively determining how much money will be allocated to caregivers for negotiating wages and benefits in our next union contracts.
Throughout this process, which lasted several months, the Board heard stories from many caregivers, including myself. One of the things they heard about was our pay. I’ve been a caregiver for over 20 years, but the pay is not enough. We need at least $20 an hour or more for our caregivers and we need benefits that support not only us, but our families. I’m not ashamed to say I got emotional when I told them my story. It’s hard to share, but it needs to be heard or else nothing will change.
On August 8, the Rate Setting Board voted unanimously to set labor rates that will result in real, substantial raises for caregivers and expand health benefits to include affordable dependent medical coverage. The next step is to bargain our contract, which will happen this fall and winter.
This wouldn’t have happened without our stories. When we share our stories, we make a difference.”
— Diana Sanchez, IP, Des Moines, WA
Summer BBQs are back!
“In July, caregivers came together in Kennewick to hold our first Summer BBQ that we’ve had in a few years. This was one of many barbeques being held across the state to celebrate outside with each other.
It was wonderful to see so many caregivers and their clients and families together in one place, sharing food and stories and having a great time. Our barbeques are a space for community to celebrate our wins and look forward to what’s coming up next. And there’s so much for us to look forward to. I know a lot of us are looking forward to Leadership Conference in September, and we have elections and Purple Presence coming up too.
But more than anything else, just seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they spent the day with their families in the park was so worth it. I’m so glad we were able to come together and celebrate, and I’m glad that other caregivers across the state also have had the opportunity to do the same. I’m proud to be a part of a Union that celebrates together like we do.”
— Patricia Pantoja, IP, Kennewick, WA
Democracy School/Elections: It doesn’t have to be scary
“I had the opportunity to participate in Democracy School this past June with other caregivers from SEIU 775 as well as members from SEIU 1199NW, SEIU 925, and SEIU Local 6. SEIU represents workers from so many different backgrounds and is so diverse. And when all these workers come together, we have a lot of power.
In Democracy School, we learned how to organize and use that power. We talked a lot about how to have tough conversations about politics, how to help people see themselves as part of the solution, and how to move people from a place of apathy to one of hope.
Talking about politics, and talking to politicians, doesn’t have to be scary. These are the people that hold the power to make decisions that have big impacts on our lives and our client’s lives, and that’s why it’s so important that they hear from us. And one of the best ways to make sure they hear from us is to vote!”
— Kitty Richmire, IP, Camano Island, WA
SEIU 775 caregivers across Washington state came together, interviewed the people running for office in Washington, and are proud to endorse pro-caregiver candidates for elected office.
Click here to see our complete list of endorsements