February 2014

Healthcare workers lead the charge for Medicaid Expansion in Indiana

Following our successful rally last month, home care and hospital workers ramped up the pressure to expand Medicaid last Monday in another action at the Indiana Statehouse.

Workers joined with low-income Hoosiers, members of the clergy, elected officials, and other allies to renew our demand to extend insurance for Hoosiers stuck in the ‘coverage gap’—people who make too little to buy subsidized insurance on exchanges, but who make too much to qualify for Medicaid as the rules stand today.medicaid expansion (13 of 25)crop

“Because I work with people with severe health problems, I am aware that it just takes one fall, one accident, one heart attack or one serious illness to take away someone’s independence. I worry about getting sick or having an accident because I don’t have health insurance and I just can’t afford to get care. I haven’t been to see a doctor in four years. I can’t afford it so I go without, which means I could be developing serious health problems and not know it,” said Vickie Rhodes, a home care worker.

Vickie’s story illustrates one reason that advocates are fighting so hard for this expansion: when sick people are forced into the ER when their health problems get out of hand, rather than having the ability to seek much more affordable preventative care, taxpayers are forced to foot the extra costs. Medicaid expansion would result in more than ten billion dollars in additional federal funding for Indiana, 30,000 new jobs, and more than 400,000 newly-insured Hoosiers.

Home care worker Eartha Coleman got to address her state Representative, Dan Forrestal, directly.

Home care worker Eartha Coleman got to address her state Representative, Dan Forrestal, directly.

Senator Karen Tallian and Representatives Karlee Macer and Sue Errington joined us in calling on the Governor to pass this expansion. After our rally on the Statehouse steps, our group proceeded inside to talk to our elected officials directly.

“Governor Pence, there are over 400,000 low-income people like me in this state that NEED you to support Medicaid expansion,” said home care worker Theresa Johnson from a stage on the Statehouse floor. “With a little courage, you could cover the majority of our state’s poor uninsured. The fact is that health care is a human right—and we ALL have the right to live a healthy life.”



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Low-Wage Home Care Workers Deliver Valentine’s Day Cards to Governor Quinn Asking Him to Support $1 Raise for Caregivers at Dept. On Aging

(February 14th 2014, Chicago) — Home care workers in the Department of Aging (DOA) delivered a large Valentine’s Day card to Governor Quinn’s office, as well as personal messages on behalf of seniors, asking him to give low-wage homecare workers a $1 raise that they have more than earned.

After trying to meet with the Governor directly, several homecare workers spoke with the Governor’s senior staff about the importance of their work and what the Community Care Program means to seniors.  Workers then held a rally outside of the Thompson Center to share their experiences caring for their consumers and seniors and why they feel their work must be respected.

Home care workers in the Community Care Program (CCP) in the Illinois Department of Aging (DOA) help seniors maintain a safe, comfortable and independent life within their communities, instead of seniors being forced to live in costly institutions or nursing homes.  As a result, home care workers save the state tens of millions of dollars every year.

Home care workers make poverty wages and have average annual wages that hover around the federal poverty line: For example:

  • The average home care aide earns $10.10 /hour
  • The average provider works 25 hours/week
  •  Hourly Wage: $10.10
  • Hours per week: 25
  • Number of weeks: 52
  • Average Annual Salary = $13,130 (which compared to the federal poverty line of $11,490 for singles and $15,510 for a family of two).


Sue and Matt

Sue and Matt

“We are asking for $1 an hour raise to ensure that our work force has the means and the incentives to continue to serve our seniors instead of the constant job turnover if home care workers leave for better wages elsewhere,” said Yvette Anderson, a home care worker who delivered cards to the Governor.  “It’s not fair to our seniors to constantly replace their home care providers.  We, as home care workers, can only do our jobs effectively when we develop a sense of trust and a relationship with our client over time.”

Annette Jones, a home care worker who herself takes care of other seniors said, “We take pride in our work caring for our elderly consumers.  But we also want to be treated with the respect and professionalism that we deserve. That’s why we are fighting for a fair and decent paycheck for an honest day’s work.”

Home care workers are building support asking the Governor and state lawmakers to co-sponsor HB 3418 / SB 2576 which will give a $1.00 hourly wage increase to Community Care Program and Home Services Program agency homecare providers.



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“Fast for Families Across America” Protests Congressman Dan Lipinski’s Office to Support Common Sense Immigration Reform

February 14th, 2014, Chicago –  “Fast for Families Across America” gathered with prominent Chicago faith and labor leaders and activists at U.S. Representative Daniel Lipinski’s Chicago district office to urge him and his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring common sense immigration reform to a vote in 2014.

Community leaders protest outside U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski's office on Valentine's Day 2014, urging him to support common sense immigration reform.

Community leaders protest outside U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski’s office on Valentine’s Day 2014, urging him to support common sense immigration reform.

Rudy Lopez from the Center for Community Change and who participated in the 22-day Fast for Families in 2013, spoke outside of Lipinski’s office: “Our friends, family members and neighbors who have been torn apart by America’s broken immigration system can no longer afford to wait.  We will urge Rep. Lipinski to be a leader in his party and for his country by quickly taking action to ensure America is equipped with a 21st century immigration system that protects families, workers, and the health of our economy for decades to come.”

National faith, labor, civic, and immigrant rights leaders are on a 100+ stop tour, visiting with advocates and solidarity fasters across the country who are following in the traditions of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi by abstaining from all food in order to bring attention to this ongoing, moral crisis.  Fasters and leaders on the bus are visiting Congressional offices with constituents, holding nightly community meetings, and encouraging supporters to act, fast and pray for commonsense immigration reform.

The bus tour follows the first phase of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,” which  began in a tent on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on November 12, 2013 and ended on December 12. Leaders and immigrant members of the community abstained from all food – except water – to move the hearts and minds of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Several fasters, including the leaders now riding the bus, went 22 days without food in order to bring attention to America’s broken immigration system.

Rudy Lopez, left, speaks outside of Congressman Lipinski's district office about his 22-day hunger strike in 2013 and why a pathway to citizenship is crucial to immigration reform.Rudy Lopez

Rudy Lopez, left, speaks outside of Congressman Lipinski’s district office about his 22-day hunger strike in 2013 and why a pathway to citizenship is crucial to immigration reform.

“We were so inspired by the energy and momentum created during the fast  on the national mall, we just knew we had to take to the road and urge others around the country to Act. Fast and Pray,” said Rudy Lopez. “Our country is clearly hungry for a solution and that hunger is fueling this bus and will fuel this long overdue legislation over the finish line.  It’s time for Rep. Lipinski and Speaker Boehner to heed the will of the American people and get this done.”

Sponsored by multiple organizations, the two-bus tour will launch from Los Angeles on February 24,  – with one bus traveling along a northern route and the other bus traveling along a southern route – and will meet in Washington, DC on April 9.

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A Historic Milestone for Chicago’s Home Care Workers

Learn more about the history of our home care members and the vital work that they do.

Home care pioneers received awards for a lifetime of service to seniors and people with disabilities.

Home care pioneers received awards for a lifetime of service to seniors and people with disabilities.

A campaign that catapulted home care workers out of the depths of poverty and reinvented the American labor movement marked its 30th anniversary next week in the city where it began.

In 1983, a small, intrepid group of mostly African American women making as little as $1 an hour to provide care for seniors and people with disabilities, formed a union in Chicago, one of the first of its kind nationally.

They aimed to improve poverty-plagued working conditions in an industry that was regarded then as little more than babysitting. Three decades later, home care is one the fastest-growing professions in the country, as well as one of the few expanding sectors of the country’s labor movement – a sea-change that historians have traced to the watershed unionization effort in Chicago.

On Saturday, September 7th, union leaders, home care workers and advocates for those who depend on this vital service convened in Chicago for a commemoration of this labor landmark.

The anniversary event featured panel discussions with historians, union leaders and advocates for seniors and people with disabilities.

“Thirty years ago, no one thought home care workers could be organized into a union, and even worse, no major labor organizations were even attempting to do it,” said Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU HCIIMK and the organizer who launched and directed the Chicago campaign. “But home care workers exemplified the reason we have unions in the first place. They were performing valuable public services for seniors and people with disabilities – and yet legally they were treated as second-class citizens and floundering in poverty.”

Home care encompasses a range of services – including food preparation, personal hygiene and medical assistance – that helps people who are aging or disabled live independently. Yet it remains exempted from the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s core legal protection for workers. In 1983, home care workers in Illinois were paid the $3.35 minimum wage for some services – and only $1 an hour for others.

“Our primary job responsibility is to help seniors and people with disabilities live their lives independently, and yet we weren’t making enough money to survive ourselves – not even the minimum wage in some case,” said SEIU Chairperson Flora Johnson, a home care provider in Chicago. “We realized that the only way we could change these conditions is to unite together and demand dignity and respect from our lawmakers and our employers.

Applying techniques that were common to community organizing, but unconventional within the labor arena, the movement, known then as Local 880 of the United Labor Unions, formed alliances with advocates for seniors and people with disabilities.

Workers marched on the state legislature, staged sit-ins at the offices of lawmakers, engaged in civil disobedience and organized private work sites. Through these efforts, and the gains won in collective bargaining agreements, the wages for Illinois home care workers have more than tripled in the last three decades, from $1/hour to $13/hour in 2014. Along the way, home care workers have also secured health insurance and funding for professional training.

These dramatic improvements in job conditions have reduced chronic turnover in the profession, promoting stability for consumers and reaping hefty savings for Illinois’ debt-plagued budget. According to figures supplied by the state, the average cost of home care is one-third of Illinois’ average expenditure on institutional care.

“By organizing home care workers, we have helped bolster the state’s economy on two fronts: tens of thousands of workers have ascended out of dire poverty, and the state is spending less money on nursing home care,” Kelleher said.

But the legacy of the Chicago campaign has reverberated beyond Illinois. The organizing model used in Chicago became the catalyst to unionize home care workers, and later independent child care providers, across the country. Today, one in every three members of the SEIU – the country’s fastest-growing union – is a home care or child care worker.


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Our Partners at Raise Illinois Applaud Unanimous Passage of Chicago City Council Resolution to Increase the State’s Minimum Wage to $10.65 an Hour

We are pleased to post this press release from the Raise Illinois coalition, working to raise the minimum wage.

Raise_Minimum_Wage_rebuilding_economy_that_works_for_all_of_usVisit www.Raiseillinois.com – Like us on Facebook: RaiseIllinois – Twitter @RaiseIllinois / #RaisetheWage


Contact: Aileen Kelleher, akelleher@actionnow.org

Chicago Aldermen Voted 49 to 0 to Endorse Raising Illinois’ Minimum Wage

(February 5th, 2014, Chicago) – The Chicago City Council unanimously passed a resolution today by a vote of 49 to 0 in support of raising the state’s minimum wage to at least $10.65 an hour.  The city council’s resolution also specifically endorsed state legislation HB 3718, sponsored by State Representative Art Turner (9th District) and SB 68 by State Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th District). Aldermen John Arena (45th Ward) sponsored the city council resolution.

The number of aldermen who supported the resolution, and effectively endorsed the Raise Illinois coalition’s effort, demonstrates the breadth of support in the city and across Illinois for lifting wages for low-income workers and families.

Children joined the picket line at Rainbow Beach.

Children joined the picket line at Rainbow Beach.

Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) stated, “Currently, there is a serious proposal in Springfield to increase the state minimum wage to at least $10.65 an hour that I heartily endorse. All workers in the state need this common sense economic support that is long overdue. Raising the minimum wage is absolutely the right thing to do for Illinois working families, communities and economy.”

In response, the Raise Illinois coalition, issued the following statement:

We fundamentally believe that raising the minimum wage in Illinois to at least $10.65 is the right approach to support our small businesses, grow the local economy, give low-wage workers the raises that they have earned, and to support working families living in poverty.

We need a comprehensive approach to expand opportunity and economic security for all working families both in Chicago and across our state.  That approach must include lifting wages for low-income workers to invest in our communities again.

It is important that all elected officials work together from across the aisle, on a bipartisan basis, and in partnership with state lawmakers in Springfield, to deliver real and meaningful reform on behalf of working families. That’s why we urge all elected officials in the greater Chicago area, and around the state, to support legislation to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to at least $10.65 an hour.

Lifting wages for working families who struggle every day should not be construed as a partisan issue, but rather the right, decent and moral thing to do in support of our communities.

We agree with President Obama that income inequality is the defining challenge of our generation and that we must tackle this crisis head on. And we applaud Governor Quinn for his leadership on this critical issue to raise the minimum wage in Illinois.

It is time to give we give low-wage workers and the families whom they support the raises that they have earned.


Raise Illinois is led by a coalition made up of community, business, faith, and labor organizations along with minimum wage workers and supporters that are committed to fighting for a raise in the minimum wage in Illinois.  Raise Illinois is a major legislative and grassroots campaign to increase Illinois’ minimum wage from the current $8.25 per hour to $10.65 an hour. www.raiseillinois.com

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