July 2012

HCII Members Join Allies to Stand Up for Community and Home Based Services on the 47th Anniversary of Medicaid

Medicaid Matters!

On July 30th, SEIU Healthcare members joined our allies to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Medicaid and to take a stand for Illinois Medicaid funded home and community based services.  Supporters gathered outside of Daley Plaza and heard from a variety of speakers, including U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, State Senator Mattie Hunter, State Representative Esther Golar, and SEIU HCII member Richard Stowell.

Richard Stowell is a Personal Assistant serving a professional with disabilities in the Chicago area so he knows firsthand how critical home based programs are.

“I help my client get up in the morning, get ready for work, and make sure he’s settled at work before I head back and clean his apartment.  Access to home care is vital so my consumer can keep working and living independently at home,” said Stowell.

Supporters outside of the HFS/DHS Chicago Office

In addition to his job as a Personal Assistant, Richard also has a son, Nathan, who was in a car accident about ten years ago and now relies on home care 24 hours a day.  Richard explained to the crowd that without Medicaid he and his family would not have survived the catastrophic medical bills after his son’s accident, nor would Nathan be able to live the life he has now at home.

See Richard Stowell’s testimony below.

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Federal budget cuts threaten Head Start families nationwide

If Congress can’t find the money to stop cuts to the federal budget next year, tens of thousands of low-income families could be dropped from Head Start programs across the country.

According to a report by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs a subcommittee that deals with human services and education, as many as 96,179 children could lose access to Head Start programs if we don’t reduce our national debt by $1.2 trillion in the next six months. In Illinois alone, this translates to a cut of nearly $25 million, putting almost 4,000 Illinois kids out of care and leaving 71 Head Start workers jobless.

But it’s not just Head Start staff who could lose their jobs if these cuts happen—parents’ jobs are at risk, too.

“If Illinois loses Head Start funding, a lot of my parents would be forced to stay home and watch their kids during the day instead of going to work,” said Tanya Davidson, who teaches infants at the Centers for New Horizons and the Effie O. Ellis day care centers in Chicago. “If they don’t work, they can’t pay rent. Some of them might even end up homeless.”

The loss of a Head Start education can have a developmental impact as well as a financial one. “A lot of the infants that come in are eating regular, grown-up table food when they get here because the parents don’t know that they need special food until they get older,” Tanya said. “It’s really important for their health and development that these kids and parents have access to the education that Head Start centers provide.”

Educators and allies have been working to find new ways for Congress to continue to fully fund Head Start, such as allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans to expire. Read more here.

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99% families across the nation speak out to raise the minimum wage

On Tuesday, the 99% stepped out all over the country to deliver the message that working families need a raise.

The first-ever National Minimum Wage Day of Action included a Romney Economy Trolley Tour, several rallies and press conferences, and protests at businesses like Dunkin Donuts and Walmart that don’t pay their workers a living wage. Participants also led games of Minimum Wage Limbo, a game that holds special significance for  workers left in limbo when forced to choose between paying the rent and paying for food.

The Minimum Wage Limbo game illustrated the limbo where low-wage workers end up when they have to choose which necessities they can afford.

The Minimum Wage Limbo game illustrated the limbo where low-wage workers end up when they have to choose which necessities they can afford.

But it wasn’t just minimum wage workers who spoke out in favor of raising the wage. DORS PA Denise Brown had the opportunity to lay out her family’s monthly budget for a member of Governor Pat Quinn’s staff, challenging him to think about how he or the Governor would support a family on $1,340 per month.

Home care worker Val Gordon has made minimum wage at several points in her career, and spoke about the difficulty of climbing out of poverty at a parallel action in St. Louis.

“I’ve been a home care worker serving seniors and people with disabilities for 20 years now and I’m still living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet,” she explained.  “In 2003 I made $6.65 an hour and did not get a raise until our federal minimum wage laws increased to $7.25 in 2009.  Since then I have only had a thirteen cent increase and I face difficult decisions every day about which bills to pay and how I can still put food on the table.”

Workers rallied at the Thompson Center to address the Governor's staff.

Workers rallied at the Thompson Center to address the Governor's staff.

In Chicago, the marches, rallies, and demonstrations culminated in a large rally at the Aon Center, where hundreds of SEIU members, allies, and activists chanted “We can’t survive on $8.25!”

See more from the rally.

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Nursing home workers picket over low staffing levels and wages

Workes and supporters protest short staffing outside Center Home for the Hispanic Elderly.

CHICAGO (July 18, 2012)—Chanting “keep residents safe” and “more supplies, more staff”, dozens of nursing home workers picketed outside the Center Home for Hispanic Elderly, 1401 N. California Ave.,  to protes

t low staffing levels, inadequate supplies and a failure of the home’s management to invest resources in workers to prevent high turnover.

Workers complained that staffing and supply shortages prevent them from providing the quality care resident seniors deserve. The high worker turnover rate also prevents a level of consistency in care delivery, they said.

“We’ve seen this before and we’re not happy about it,” said nursing home worker Rosario Isaac, citing well documented problems the controversial nursing home faced earlier this year. “The seniors who receive care at the nursing home shouldn’t have to suffer simply because the owners don’t want to invest resources into the home.”

Late last year, state officials cited Center Home for several deficiencies which they corrected. Earlier this year, state officials again were at the home investigating continuing complaints by workers and

relatives of residents about short staffing and supply shortages such as adult diapers, wipes and cleaning supplies.

A state ombudsman was assigned to monitor the progress but notified the State Department of Public Health after management failed to correct the problems. In March, workers, healthcare advocates and relatives of residents held a press conference outside the facility prior to delivering badly needed supplies to the administrator.

Public records have shown time spent on nursing care at Center Home has been declining and it ranked in the lowest 1 percent nationwide for nursing care, according to a newspaper report examining the situation.

“Enough is enough,” said David Hernandez, a certified nursing assistant at Center Home. “These nursing home owners must start investing in their homes by giving workers the supplies and staffing necessary to give good care, and they must pay workers sufficiently to stop the high turnover that interrupts the consistency of care.”

Hernandez pointed out that health and safety problems at other nursing homes across the city and state are being highlighted by worker pickets. The low pay and lack of resource investments are creating situations where the quality of care will continue to decline if not addressed by nursing home owners.

“These are jobs we love. Many of these owners make good money from the homes, but some of that money must be reinvested for the sake of residents,” he said.

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Health care workers criticize House Republicans for “blatant political stunt”

The Republican led U.S. House of Representatives wasted taxpayer dollars playing a partisan game on Wednesday, when they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It represented the 33rd time Congress has attempted to repeal the Act, even though the measure is destined for certain defeat in the U.S. Senate.  Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, uniting 91,000 health care and child care workers, issued the following statement in response:

At a time when Congress should put its full attention on the country’s economic recovery, the U.S. House Republicans squandered a day at the office Wednesday when they voted for a politically motivated and legislatively futile repeal of President Obama’s landmark health care reform.

While average Americans need Congress to focus intensely on policies that will create jobs, make college education more affordable, reduce the federal deficit and generally improve our economic fortunes, the House Republicans chose to spend the day on a blatant political stunt.  The attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, so Wednesday’s vote was an exercise in empty symbolism, wasting time, energy and public dollars that should have been marshaled to accelerate our economic revitalization.

In response to today’s vote we will be informing our union members of all Illinois Congressional members who voted to deny Illinois citizens quality, affordable health care.

In the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, the time has come for opponents of the bill to dispense with partisan gamesmanship and move on to the business at hand: putting more Americans to work.

Congress should let the Affordable Care Act continue to work for the people of the Illinois.  According to the Campaign for Better Health Care, the law has already generated the following rewards in Illinois:

  • More than 3.6 million residents became entitled to preventative medical services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, without having to pay deductibles or co-pays.


  • More than 100,000 uninsured young adults under the age of 26 became eligible for coverage under the parents’ health insurance.


  • More than 150,000 seniors with Medicare received a $250 rebate to cover the cost of their prescription drugs once they hit the so-called donut hole.

For all of these reasons, members of Congress who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act must explain to Illinois’ voters why they chose to deny health security to their constituents and why they oppose providing quality and affordable health care for all Americans.



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