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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.