November 2012

Jobs, not cuts! Looming Fiscal Cliff Threatens Jobs and Services in Illinois

The ominous fiscal cliff refers to the deadline on December 31st, 2012, when Bush tax cuts are set to expire and mark the beginning of automatic, across-the-board cuts that will have a devastating impact on several domestic programs. In the coming weeks, federal lawmakers face a series of critical decisions that will either help put people back to work or make our economic crisis even worse.

Before kicking off a lobby day at the Capital on November 27th, home care workers, consumers and other allies met outside Senator Dick Durbin’s Springfield office to make sure he knows that Illinois residents want him to support jobs and not cuts during the deal that must be brokered in order to avoid this crisis.

Hundreds carried signs demanding ‘jobs, not cuts’ as they marched while a delegation delivered a letter urging the Senator to stand with working people.

In Illinois alone, 823 Head Start workers stand to lose their jobs due to across-the-board cuts to Head Start funding; 659 education jobs will be lost because of cuts to Title I Grants, and 471 Special Education jobs will no longer be supported by federal funding.

On the public service side, 3,948 Illinois kids would lose access to Head Start, 3,348 fewer children will receive Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) services, and 2,008 fewer Illinois veterans will be served due to cuts to Veterans Employment and Training.

Other proposals to replace the sequester would mean deep cuts to other core programs like Medicaid and Medicare, again costing jobs and critical services that seniors, people with disabilities, and kids rely on.

“These cuts would be devastating to all concerned – seniors, caregivers, working parents who rely on child care, and so many more,” said Annette Jones, a Home Care Aide from Chicago. “And we’re here today to show Senator Durbin that we need his support.”

With so much at stake for Illinois, any tax and budget deal must:

  • create jobs and grow the economy;
  • protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security;
  • let Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2% and require corporations to pay their fair share;
  • and end the scheduled across-the-board cuts.

WICS Channel 20 came out and covered the action, click here to see the story.

We will continue to bring our message to Senator Durbin and ask for his support – be sure to join us at our next action.

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Hundreds of Home Care Providers and Consumers Push Lawmakers for Supplemental Funding

About 300 home care workers, seniors, and people with disabilities traveled to Springfield for the first day of veto session.  The contingent held a rally in the Statehouse rotunda after hitting the halls of the chamber to meet with lawmakers and express the dire situation that consumers face without passage of supplemental appropriation for the programs they rely on.

In Illinois, home care services enable over 100,000 seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes with the assistance of home care workers.  Beyond protecting the dignity and security of these consumers, home care also saves the state hundreds of millions by avoiding costly institutional care. 

The Community Care Program through the Department on Aging serves seniors and faces a total shortfall of $313 million; $173 million in previous liability from FY12, and $140 million operating deficit in FY13. This staggering shortfall threatens 15,000 seniors enrolled in the program currently.

Downstate home care worker Jennifer Hornbrook shares her story at the rally.

“I met my current home care consumer, Mary, when she was in a nursing home and I was her CNA,” explained Jennifer Hornbrook, a Home Care Aide who serves seniors. “Once she was strong enough and could go home, I became her home care worker and watching her thrive back in her own environment is remarkable. She wants to be in her home, with her husband, with her community and this shortfall really threatens people like Mary, that’s why I’m here.”

In addition, the DHS-DRS Home Services Program that provides access to home care services for people with disabilities is facing an approximate $40 million shortfall. The final FY13 budget included an increase of $4 million from FY12, but the budget also includes $40 million in cuts to services and eligibility which would impact current and future consumers.

Without supplemental appropriation these programs will be left underfunded, forcing seniors and people with disabilities into costly institutional care and costing providers their hours of work or even their jobs.

Lawmakers we spoke with were supportive and understood what’s at stake, but we’ll continue to press more legislators in Springfield for action on this critical issue.

Follow this link to view video from worker testimonies:

Click here to view WCIA’s news coverage from the rally.

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Yes We Did: Working people bring it home for progressive lawmakers

November 6th was a night of celebration for working people all over the country. After months of pounding the pavement for progressive leaders on the state and federal levels, we won a mandate this year, with big gains in the House, Senate, state offices, and, of course, the reelection of President Obama proving that the American people are ready to work together to lift up workers and the middle class, not continue to line the pockets of the 1%.

These victories would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our members.

Our work, by the numbers:Members called voters for weeks to turn out every possible vote for pro-worker candidates.

2051 – Doorknocking volunteers

158 – Phone banking volunteers

794–  Members who traveled to Wisconsin to help with races there

8 – New seats won for Democrats in the US House

2 – New seats won for Democrats in the US Senate

9 – Walk a day events held leading up to the elections, to make candidates aware of the importance of our members’ work

2 – Supermajorities won in the Illinois General Assembly

57 out of 64 – HCII-endorsed candidates who won in Illinois

10 out of 13 – HCII-endorsed candidates who won in Missouri

1– Democratic governor reelected in Missouri

Chicago home care worker Germaine Rias campaigned in three different states, knocking doors, calling voters, and going all-in for progressive lawmakers. Germaine was on an SEIU bus back from canvassing in Milwaukee when the news about Obama’s victory started to spread.

Germaine Rias

Germaine Rias

“I was on the bus on the 290, and everyone was just in an uproar. Everyone was on their phones, checking their Twitters, getting calls from our families. I got to Obama’s victory event at McCormick Place, and the feeling was just breathtaking. I called my organizer and said, ‘I don’t know if this sounds weird, but I love you right now for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this victory.’ That’s how I felt.”

Sherry Wade, a home care worker in St. Louis, was on the front lines helping to reelect Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

“Governor Nixon even stopped by to thank SEIU members for all the hard work we did to help him get re-elected,” Sherry said. “It was a great opportunity to remind him that we stand with lawmakers who stand with us so he remembers our faces and the issues that are important to us during his next term.”

As Sherry said, our work with these lawmakers isn’t over. It’s up to working people to hold them to the promises they made, and we’ll be keeping the pressure on in the coming months. But today, we should all be proud of ourselves for the victories we worked so hard to achieve.

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Nursing Home Workers Tell Owners To Invest In Quality Care During Candlelight Vigil

CHICAGO– Despite amassing large profits, Illinois nursing home owners are systematically failing to invest adequately in the needs of the residents entrusted to their care, according to workers at the facilities, who gathered by the hundreds Nov. 15 in a mass demonstration joined by lawmakers and community advocates.

Participating in a march and candlelight vigil outside four trouble-plagued nursing homes on the city’s north side, the workers said understaffing, supply shortages and woefully low staff compensation rates are all factors that hamper the quality of care at homes operated by members of the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities (IAHCF).   IAHCF is an alliance of more than 100 nursing homes statewide, and its members collectively compiled a $50.5 million profit in 2011.

View video of the march

“The members of the IAHCF are short-changing the people we care for, and we’re taking a stand today to show our support for nursing home residents and their family members,” said Tanya Pugh Rizer, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at The Grove of Lincoln Park.   “The owners of these nursing homes have made big profits, but they haven’t invested that money in hiring additional staff, supplementing scarce supplies or raising wages for workers to reduce turnover on the job.”

During the demonstration along Sheridan Road, the marchers stopped at four nursing homes where they said conditions were symptomatic of theproblems afflicting many IAHCF locations.  The four locations – Lake Shore Healthcare, Chalet Living and Rehab, Alden Village North and Lakefront Nursing & Rehab – have all come under scrutiny from state regulators in the past year.

Meanwhile, at least 25 percent of IAHCF nursing homes are not complying with minimum staffing requirements set forth in landmark legislation the Illinois General Assembly passed in 2010 in an attempt to remedy chronic problems at the facilities.  SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana backed that bill on behalf of the nursing home residents, and it is raising alarms in the community now, since illegal understaffing remains a pervasive problem throughout the industry. 

“Understaffing threatens the quality of care for nursing home residents, because they can’t get the attention they deserve when workers are asked to do the job of two people,” said Yolonda Morris, a CNA at Cedar Point Nursing Home. 

The average wage for workers employed by members of the IAHCF is $10.55, amounting to an annual income below the poverty line for a family of four.

In current contract negotiations, IAHCF members have offered workers a five-cent-per-hour pay increase, only if they agree to forfeit some of their minimal vacation time.



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All over Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and the country as a whole, working people are celebrating the reelection of President Barack Obama and dozens of progressive wins all over the ballot.

On Wednesday morning, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry emailed the members and allies who made this victory possible.

“More than 100,000 SEIU members volunteered during this campaign. Together, we knocked on 5 million doors and made 13 million phone calls for President Obama and pro-working family candidates up and down the ballot.
This victory is your victory,” she said.
UPDATE: Check out the final tally on how our hard work brought victories home for working people. Congratulations on a job well done!
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