March 2012

From the Deep South to the Midwest, members fight for justice and immigrants’ rights

This month, our members fought for justice for immigrants, making our voices heard all the way from Alabama to Chicago.

Our members flew south to join other civil rights leaders, union members, and activists in commemorating the anniversary of the 1965 Bloody Sunday march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, which resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act. This time around, we marched in protest of HB 56, Alabama’s racist, restrictive, and regressive immigration law, widely regarded as the strictest in the country to date.

“My grandmother went to one of the first schools to be desegregated in the South,” said Clarice Evans, a hospital worker in Chicago. “They were afraid, but they kept going to school every day. I thank God that I didn’t have to go through it, but I’m glad I was able to do something for the kids that are scared to go to school now because of this racist law.”

In addition to allowing police to racially profile anyone they suspect of being undocumented, requiring them to carry their immigration papers with them at all times, one section of HB56 requires that schools check the immigration status of their students. The Monday after HB56 was passed, the percent increase in Latino children absent from school shot up 80 per cent.

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson marched with members from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson marched with members from Selma to Montgomery.

Members marched upwards of ten miles per day, shoulder-to-shoulder with civil rights giants like Dick Gregory, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Child care provider Freddie Davis, 71, inspired other marchers with her presence alone.

“Yes, I kept up,” Freddie said. “To meet Dick Gregory and other leaders and get an autograph from the 100-year-old woman who was in the original 1965 march was an experience I’ll never forget.”

Watch our members’ moving account of our trip.

Back in Chicago, members marched on Fletcher Jones Honda on Clark Street to support a repeal of HB56. Honda, one of the biggest employers and investors in Alabama, relies on Latinos to purchase their products, but have remained silent about this anti-immigrant law.

Along with more than 75 members and supporters, Arise Chicago director Rev. CJ Hawking invoked the memory of the 1965 marches as well as giving a shoutout to our members in Selma before we set off to protest.

“Honda decided to build a plant in Alabama, and it has remained silent about house bill 56. They need to come out by tomorrow, when our folks reach Montgomery, and they need to tell people that house bill 56 needs to be repealed,” she said.

See our members speak out at Fletcher Jones Honda:

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Marching for Justice: from Selma to Montgomery and home again

A statement from SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana President Keith Kelleher:

This month, I was honored to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, for civil rights, immigrants’ rights, and justice. Along with our brothers and sisters in Alabama and supporters from across the country, we marched to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the historic 1965 march that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and so many other revolutionary civil rights laws passed in the heyday of the movement.

Keith and members getting ready to march

Keith and members getting ready to march

Our union was well-represented in Selma: we had homecare workers from southern Illinois and Chicago, child care providers from the south suburbs, and healthcare workers from our hospitals and nursing homes marching together. Black, white and brown, we marched united against new racist, discriminatory laws in Alabama aimed at recent immigrants as well as voter suppression laws which were written only to prevent African-Americans and other low and moderate income people from exercising their right to vote.

National leaders like civil rights pioneer Dick Gregory, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton joined us on the march, as well as SEIU’s own officers: Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice-President Gerry Hudson, and President Mary Kay Henry.

Our path honored the heroes of the past as well as the freedom fighters of today. We began at the Memorial for Viola Liuzzo [link], a white volunteer transporting civil rights marchers on the original 1965 march. The KKK forced her car off the road and killed her with a shotgun. Her passenger, an African-American marcher, survived.

We were privileged to be introduced to one of the original marchers. At more than 100 years old, she marched alongside us in her wheelchair—what an inspiration!

I was proud of the endurance and strength of our members, several of whom were well into their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s. They marched several miles a day, for days in a row, without complaint. It reminded me of the marcher during the historic 1956 Montgomery bus boycott who said of her effort, “My feet may be hurting, but my soul is rested.”

Watch our members’ moving account of our trip.

Even though we were in the heart of the Deep South, fighting new racist anti-immigrant legislation and attacks on the rights of people of color and all low- and moderate-income Americans to vote, we felt hopeful. There we were, hundreds of us, black, brown, Asian, and white; senior citizens and young people; members of unions, community organizations, and immigrant rights groups; united and fighting back against racist, anti-immigrant and discriminatory voting laws and right-to-work-for-less laws [link] that threaten our rights on the job . We were being escorted by Alabama state troopers: the same authorities who might have harassed and beaten us 50 years ago were now protecting us.

We know have a lot of work ahead of us. We have to be vigilant in preventing racist and regressive laws[link to anti hb56 site] from unraveling the hard-won advancements that our brothers and sisters died for and keep fighting for fairness and equality in our jobs, communities, cities and state capitols.

But little by little, things are truly changing for the better. Together, we’re marching forward to a better world for all of us.

Keith

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HCII members all over the news as we stand up for child care, home care, and a fair tax system

Our members have been all over the media lately as we fight to protect Illinois’ vital home care and child care programs, while educating residents and lawmakers about the fair tax system that will allow us to keep funding them. See the news coverage we’re getting as the fair tax movement gains momentum!

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Barack Obama commends Legacy Local 880 in 2007 speech

In 2007, before he was elected president, Barack Obama addressed SEIU’s International Executive Board. He described how our Legacy Local 880 inspired him when he was a community organizer and spoke with heart about his respect for the working people that make up our union. President Obama has supported working people through fierce opposition in the last four years, and as he comes up for reelection, it’s time for us to return his support.

See the video:

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Missouri Home Care Workers Fight Back Cuts in Jefferson City

Missouri home care workers recently traveled to Jefferson City to meet with our senators and representatives about the importance of the services we provide and the need to protect home care funding for people with disabilities.  Lawmakers in the House and Senate are already threatening to cut our program, and we know the devastating effects that would have on us and our consumers so we’re fighting back in the capitol.

“Attending lobby days and other events in support of home care funding are so important because some of our consumers can’t make the trip themselves and their voices must be heard.  I care for my aunt and would never want to see her end up in a nursing home because she can no longer get the services she needs to remain in her home,” explained home care worker Mattie Bryant from Pagedale, MO.

Cuts not only threaten our livelihoods, but also the independence of our consumers.  When home care isn’t fully funded it means less access to quality care for consumers, loss of their freedom and dignity, and even unwanted shifts to more costly institutional care.  For home care workers like us, cuts would mean loss of hours and pay, or even our jobs.

“Lawmakers in Jefferson City need to hear from us if we want to save our jobs and protect the dignity of our consumers.  We know that when home care workers stand up together for what’s right, we win.  We were successful last year in protecting our programs, but this year is going to be an even harder fight so every home care worker needs to get involved and join us at events like lobby day,” said Elinor Simmons, home care worker from St. Louis.

This legislative session there’s a lot at stake in Missouri and that’s why we will continue to get our message out in Jefferson City and in our local communities.  Lawmakers must pass a budget that protects our jobs, protects services for people with disabilities, and makes the rich pay their fair share so funds for services like home care aren’t robbed from those who need them most.

See more photos from the event here.

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Member leaders call on World Business Chicago to spend G8 money on jobs programs

Now that this year’s G8 summit will be held at Camp David instead of here in Chicago, members and other community leaders are asking World Business Chicago to put the $65 million raised for the summit into creating new jobs in the community. Read more and see our members speak out for vital jobs programs here.

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Community aids residents at Chicago nursing home

CHICAGO (March 1, 2012)—Fed up with chronic health and safety violations at a Humboldt Park nursing home, a vocal group of pastors, community activists and workers at the facility took matters into their own hands today, delivering badly needed sanitary supplies that the home’s ownership has failed to stock for residents entrusted to its care.

The group prayed and chanted outside the Center Home for Hispanic Elderly nursing home, calling on administrators to rectify the dangerous supply shortage and follow through on other reforms it promised to make after state regulators found numerous health and safety violations at the facility three months ago.  Workers also complained that daily staffing shortages add to their difficulty in providing quality care for residents.

Workers have complained for months that nursing home administrators were not giving them enough supplies — such as diapers and gloves — to last an entire shift. Such shortages leave residents in unsanitary conditions that are preventable, workers say.

“It is unfortunate that it has come to this,” said Marilu Vazquez, a CNA at the facility. “While the company is making money, it is allowing our elderly residents to experience unnecessary hardships that are easily preventable.

“We are demanding that Center Home administrators not only provide us with the necessary supplies, but to also bring staffing levels up to the required levels. We deserve it, but more importantly, our residents deserve it.”

The nursing home was cited by state inspectors in November for similar violations, including “rationing” supplies in a way that exposes residents and workers to the spread of infection and disease. Among other areas of correction, inspectors called on Center Home administrators to “maintain an infection control program” and assure that services provided “meet professional standards of quality.”

Meanwhile, the nursing home showed a profit significantly higher than the industry average, according to the latest available statistics.

Press conference participants piled bags of diapers and gloves on the steps of the nursing home to demonstrate the need of the workforce and the neglect of the administrators to provide such items. At the end of the press conference, participants delivered the supplies to administrators inside the building.

“Residents and workers do not deserve these unsanitary and unsafe conditions,” said Adam Kader, director of the Arise Chicago Worker Center. “Nursing home operators must be held accountable when they shortchange and neglect their residents and staff just because they want to make more money for themselves. Shame on you, Center Home. Delivering quality care should be the standard you strive for.”

See the rally video here:

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Hundreds Stand Up for Home Care in Springfield

Hundreds of home care workers and consumers took the Capitol by storm on Tuesday, visiting lawmakers and explaining the impact the proposed budget would have on home care services for seniors and people with disabilities.  The lobby day was then followed by a rally where our speakers called for an end to corporate handouts that rob funds from those who need it most.

“Today, we want our lawmakers to know that the $216 million tax break that they doled out to CME Group could have provided 37,000 of our seniors and people with disabilities home care services,” exclaimed rally emcee Tonya Smith, a home care worker from Addus.

Several consumers shared their personal stories with the crowd of over 500, pointing out that without the help they get from their home care worker they may not be able to continue living the independent lives they want to live.

Personal Assistant Maria Hernandez and consumer Crisstian Hernandez

“I’m a full-time student right now studying to be a math teacher one day,” said Crisstian Hernandez, a home care consumer from Posen, IL.  “Without this program, I would not be able to attend school and pursue my dream.  Our state seems to have its priorities misplaced when it comes to choosing the winners and losers during tough economic times.”

Several political allies stopped by to voice their support for home care funding as well.  State Senator Gary Forby from the southernmost region of the state, State Representative Al Riley from the South Suburbs of Chicago, and Chicago’s West Side State Representative Derrick Smith all reaffirmed their unwavering support for home care services.

“I want you all to know that my mother receives the services you provide and my sister is the one who provides it for her, so I get it,” said Representative Smith, over cheers from the crowd.

While energy was high in the rotunda, the realities of the budget proposals are somber.  The Governor’s proposed cuts would mean loss of access for many to the critical services we provide and fewer hours for those already enrolled in the program.  These cuts could leave many of our consumers with no choice but to transition to nursing home care, swallowing more state resources and sending us to the unemployment line.

Bonita Rodriguez, Home Care Worker and Member Intern

Bonita Rodriguez, Home Care Worker and Member Intern

“Home care workers like me are losing hours, and when I lose my hours that means seniors are losing their services,” said Bonita Rodriguez, a home care worker who works with seniors.  “Without my service, my senior probably wouldn’t eat, probably wouldn’t get out of bed, and probably wouldn’t be clean.  Budget cuts are targeting seniors and people like me so the rich can get their tax breaks.  Well we’re here to fight back and we’ll keep coming back until lawmakers get the message!”

Home care consumers and workers returned home after the rally energized to keep the pressure on back in our communities and make sure quality care and quality jobs are protected in the budget.  Cuts to home care are only initial proposals at this point, but we stand ready to activate and mobilize if these plans move forward.  Stay tuned for more updates and ways to get involved.

Visit our photostream to view more photos from the lobby day and rally.

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