May 2014

Personal Assistant Lynda Harper: Supreme Court Case Threatens Progress, But Home Care Providers & Consumers Will Not Stop Uniting for Improvements

Lynda HarperBy Lynda Harper, Illinois Personal Assistant

I don’t normally follow what’s happening at our nation’s highest Court, but a decision that will be handed down in the next few weeks has got my attention.

I’m a home care provider here in Illinois. I provide services for people with disabilities who want to live independently at home.

The work I do is not easy, but I know how important it is to those who rely on me for cooking, cleaning, help with personal hygiene, administering medication, and so much more.

I’ve provided home care on and off for 27 years and I’ve seen real progress made in terms of wages and benefits for providers, and improved standards and funding so people with disabilities get the highest quality care possible.

When I started out in 1987, I made just $1/hour. I was a recent widow with children who needed me to provide for them. We struggled day in and day out on the poverty wages I earned.

There was no access to healthcare and job training, and both home care providers and consumers suffered. The workforce was plagued with high turnover and too many quality providers were forced to find other work due to the low wages and lack of benefits.

Then we organized our union. As more home care providers got involved, we came out of the shadows with our consumers at our sides. Over the last several decades, we’ve gained a real voice and transformed the Home Services Program.

Together, we’ve fought for fair wages, access to healthcare, training and orientation, and we’ve protected the program from cuts during the worst recession our state has ever experienced, ensuring that no one with a disability who wants to remain at home is forced into costly institutional care.

Harris v Quinn is a Supreme Court case that threatens  to take us backwards by attempting to weaken home care providers’ ability to unite and negotiate with the state for improvements to home care jobs and services. A decision will be released in the coming weeks and there are tens of thousands of home care providers and consumers watching closely.

We’ve come so far here in Illinois over the last 30 years to create an environment where seniors and people with disabilities can live with dignity and independence at home, with help from providers like me. We’ve come so far in making home care jobs decent jobs, in curbing turnover and ensuring that those providing these critical services aren’t forced into poverty. This December providers will earn $13/hour for our work, thousands have access to quality healthcare, and we’ve established a training fund that arms us with the skills we need to deliver quality care. We cannot go backwards.

No court case is going to stop home care providers and consumers from staying united and standing up for good jobs and quality home care, but I hope the Court will recognize that our current system works so we can continue to build on the strong foundation we have.

See Lynda Harper’s comments posted here in the Springfield Journal-Register as a letter to the editor.

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Progress for uninsured Hoosiers!

Members rallied for greater coverage at the Indiana Statehouse.

Members rallied for greater coverage at the Indiana Statehouse.

Last week, Indiana’s Governor Pence took a step in the right direction by announcing his plan to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan. The new plan, called HIP 2.0, could extend health care coverage to more than 350,000 uninsured Hoosiers if it gets approval from the federal government.

Schererville home care worker Kendra Bush spoke about the announcement. “We stood together to push the governor to expand health coverage for Hoosiers caught in the gap. HIP 2.0 is not perfect, but it is a good step in the right direction. This has shown that when we fight, we win! So we need to continue to stand together and fight for what we need for our families,” she said.

Kendra joined many other Indiana members in writing letters, making phone calls, rallying outside the Statehouse in the cold, and more to keep the fight to insure Hoosiers in motion.

Learn more here.

 

 

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Guest Post: Childcare Workers are Low-Wage Workers!

The following is a guest post from Y Not Our Kids, the Tumblr site that chronicles our YMCA Head Start members’ ongoing fight for a fair contract at the YMCA of Metro Chicago. You can learn more about our fight at ynotourkids.tumblr.com.

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Low-wage workers in 150 cities went on strike today to fight for the idea that workers deserve to make a living wage. Most of those strikers were fast food workers, but at the YMCA, the people who educate our young children struggle to make ends meet, just like the people who work at McDonald’s or WalMart.

We joined the picket line at Rock N’ Roll McDonald’s before traveling to BMO Harris Bank, where YMCA of Metro Chicago board chairman Peter McNitt is also Vice Chair. Several demonstrators from the Fight for Fifteen strike joined us in solidarity, and although security blocked us from seeing McNitt and tried to confiscate our literature, we succeeded in educating people in the lobby and the neighborhood about our ongoing contract fight.

Our press release about today’s action is below, along with more photos of the event. Great job to everyone who made this action a success!

We joined forces with the Fight for 15, demanding a meeting with Peter McNitt, YMCA of Metro Chicago board chair and Vice Chair of BMO Harris Bank.

We joined forces with the Fight for 15, demanding a meeting with Peter McNitt, YMCA of Metro Chicago board chair and Vice Chair of BMO Harris Bank.

Media Advisory for Immediate Release: Thursday, May 14, 2014

YMCA teachers and staff join massive low-wage worker strikes; “This is our fight too”

Child care workers marched in solidarity with striking fast food workers, sending the message that ALL workers deserve fair pay, food workers and child care workers alike.

Child care workers marched in solidarity with striking fast food workers, sending the message that ALL workers deserve fair pay, food workers and child care workers alike.

CHICAGO—As fast food and retail workers in 150 cities take to the streets on Thursday to fight for decent wages and fair treatment, YMCA Head Start teachers and staff who have been fighting for a fair contract for more than a year will confront members of the YMCA board and management to make the same demands.

Since voting to form their union in November of 2012, long-serving teachers and staff at the YMCA have fought for adequate supplies, fair wages, and affordable health care at the bargaining table. But YMCA management has dug in its heels, refusing wage increases and even proposing to raise the cost of a health care plan that less than half of its employees could afford in the first place.

Teachers, staff, and allies will start the day picketing in solidarity with fast food workers at the massive Fight for Fifteen rally at Rock and Roll McDonalds at 11am, then proceed to BMO Harris Bank, where YMCA board chairman Peter McNitt serves as Vice Chair. A delegation of workers will enter the bank to confront McNitt about the YMCA’s behavior at the bargaining table, while the rest of the group remains outside to educate passersby about the fight for fair wages at the YMCA and beyond.

“Nobody who works a full day should have to live in poverty, whether they’re stocking shelves at WalMart, flipping burgers at McDonalds, or caring for your children at the YMCA,” said teacher Jaqueline Maxie. Maxie has been with the YMCA since the nineties, but still makes only $10.02 per hour—far short of the $15 per hour being demanded by the Fight for Fifteen strikers. In fact, 76% of the workers involved in the contract fight make less than $15 per hour, while Dick Malone, CEO of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, makes more than a half million dollars per year.

“The fight for respect and fair wages is our fight, too,” Maxie said.

When: Thursday, May 15, 1:15 p.m

Where: Meeting at the corner of LaSalle and Monroe, then marching to BMO Harris Bank at 111 W. Monroe

What: YMCA parents, staff, teachers, and allies will unite with underpaid fast food and retail workers engaging in a nationwide day of action before splitting off to take their message to their employers.

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VIDEO: Home care workers and consumers on the steps of the Supreme Court

On January 21st, a delegation of home care workers, consumers, and allies stood together in Washington D.C. to tell the country what’s really at stake in Harris V. Quinn, a case before the Supreme Court that threatens the lives and livelihoods of the tens of thousands of Illinoisans that depend on home care. See their stories below.

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Hobart, Indiana stands up for Medicaid expansion

In Indiana, our members have lead the state in fighting to expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage. That work has paid off in Hobart, Indiana, where the city council unanimously passed a resolution to expand Medicaid throughout the state!

Hobart City Councilman Dave Vinzant sponsored the resolution, which can be found below. Expanding Medicaid throughout the state would bring more than ten billion dollars of federal funding to Indiana, insure more than 400,000 Hoosiers, and create more than 30,000 new jobs.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2014-04

RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE FULL EXPANSION OF MEDICAID
IN INDIANA THROUGH THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

WHEREAS, Indiana ranks poorly in health statistics. We are 41st out of all 50 States in overall health, with our position falling four spots since 2011.1 We are a disgraceful 47th in infant mortality;2

WHEREAS, Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), States have a choice to allow access to health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program for residents living under 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (currently $26,951 per year for a family of three). Expanded Medicaid would cover screenings, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and vision, mental health, and hospitalizations;

WHEREAS, Because Indiana ranks poorly in overall health statistics, when considered in relationship to most other States, Indiana stands to gain more relative to other States in improved health by expanding Medicaid;

WHEREAS, There are between 800,000 and 900,000 uninsured Hoosiers. Approximately 350,000 of these uninsured Hoosiers do not qualify for traditional Medicaid and earn too little to be eligible for subsidies to purchase insurance in the Indiana Health Insurance Exchange.4 These are primarily working adults ages 19-64 who work in retail, education, temporary agencies, home health, childcare, and other jobs with lower wages and minimal benefits. Many are working more than one job. Without access to some version of Medicaid, these Hoosier neighbors will continue to have no option for health insurance;

WHEREAS, An estimated 71,000 residents of Lake County fall into this gap;5

WHEREAS, An estimated 13,700 uninsured veterans in Indiana could qualify for the Medicaid expansion;6

WHEREAS, The Medicaid expansion is 100% federally funded for the first three years (2014-2016) and at least 90% federally funded thereafter. The cost to Indiana taxpayers has been estimated to be between $50 and $150 million per year7 (this compares to Indiana’s current annual cost of $1.9 billion for traditional Medicaid);8

WHEREAS, The State share of the cost of Medicaid expansion can be completely covered by other savings. The State currently collects cigarette taxes designated for the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP). In 2013, these taxes amounted to $122.9 million; furthermore, the balance of the HIP trust fund is currently $320.2 million.9 These sources of HIP revenue alone would cover the State’s share of Medicaid expansion. Any costs of expansion must be considered alongside expansion’s savings, such as savings to off-site prisoner health expenses and the cost of the Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association (the “high risk pool,” which is being phased out);10

WHEREAS, Costs are also outpaced by potential revenue. The federal share for Medicaid expansion would mean $10.5 billion in revenue coming into Indiana through 2020 at a rate of $1.5 billion a year. Spending by the federal government on Medicaid expansion would generate an estimated $2.4 to $3.4 billion in new economic activity in Indiana from 2014 to 2020, which could finance over 30,000 jobs through 2020.11 Medicaid expansion would increase State and local tax revenue by $108 million a year;12

WHEREAS, Uncompensated care cost Indiana hospitals nearly $3 billion in 2011 ($1.7 billion in uncompensated care, plus $1.2 billion in bad debt). A recent study determined that Medicaid expansion would reduce the amount of uncompensated care provided in Indiana by $2 billion from 2014-2019.13 If Indiana does not move forward to maximize coverage, planned Medicare payment cuts under the ACA could lead to the closure of Indiana hospitals, which would reduce access for patients and eliminate high-paying jobs in communities across the State. Indeed, Indiana hospitals are already announcing layoffs;14

WHEREAS, Indiana is positioning itself to be a leader in health care, biotech, and life sciences industries. Expanding Medicaid will strengthen these industries by providing greater access to health care for those who would not otherwise seek it, thereby creating a greater demand for health-related services and products;

WHEREAS, By declining to expand Medicaid, Indiana sends the message that we are hostile to the needs of some of our State’s most vulnerable residents – an unfriendly message that could incentivize some residents and businesses to leave the State and may discourage others from locating here;

WHEREAS, The Health Indiana Plan currently covers approximately 39,000 people, and does not meet the minimum requirements of the ACA in several areas, including pregnancy or dental care, the provision of annual ($300,000) and lifetime ($1 million) financial cap on coverage, and caps on enrollment.15,16 This presents significant problems with using HIP as a vehicle for Medicaid expansion;

WHEREAS, All the States surrounding Indiana – Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois – have already elected to expand Medicaid, making us “an island of the uninsured.”17 Other States that have expanded Medicaid include: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and the District of Columbia;

WHEREAS, As Indiana lawmakers have forfeited Medicaid expansion for 2014, this year, Indiana taxpayers’ federal tax payments will be applied toward the expansion of Medicaid in other States;

WHEREAS, A recent study of the Oregon Medicaid Experiment found that Medicaid coverage decreased rates of depression, increased use of preventative services, and nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures;18

WHEREAS, A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that for every 176 adults covered under expanded Medicaid, one death per year could be prevented.19 In 2010, there were 499 deaths in Indiana due to lack of health care coverage among persons age 25-64;20

WHEREAS, Illness and medical bills are the cause of 62% of personal bankruptcies nationally.21 In 2004 there were 55,177 bankruptcy filings in Indiana with 27,782 classified as medically related – this translates into approximately 106 medical bankruptcy filings every business day.22 Another study found that a 10% expansion of Medicaid eligibility has been shown to reduce bankruptcies by 8%;23

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

That the Common Council of the City of Hobart supports the full expansion of Medicaid in Indiana through the Affordable Care Act, and urges the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly to implement the expansion in Indiana.

Deborah Longer, Clerk-Treasurer

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SEIU members stand in solidarity with #FastFoodGlobal and the Fight for Fifteen!

Today, in 150 cities worldwide, low-wage fast food workers went on strike for fair treatment, the right to a union, and a living wage of $15 an hour.

Check out the gallery below of our folks standing in solidarity in Indianapolis, Chicago, Rockford, and St. Louis!

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YMCA teachers and staff join massive low-wage worker strikes; “This is our fight too”

Media Advisory for Immediate Release: Thursday, May 14, 2014

YMCA teachers and staff join massive low-wage worker strikes; “This is our fight too”

CHICAGO–As fast food and retail workers in 150 cities take to the streets on Thursday to fight for decent wages and fair treatment, YMCA Head Start teachers and staff who have been fighting for a fair contract for more than a year will confront members of the YMCA board and management to make the same demands.

Since voting to form their union in November of 2012, long-serving teachers and staff at the YMCA have fought for adequate supplies, fair wages, and affordable health care at the bargaining table. But YMCA management has dug in its heels, refusing wage increases and even proposing to raise the cost of a health care plan that less than half of its employees could afford in the first place.

Teachers, staff, and allies will start the day picketing in solidarity with fast food workers at the massive Fight for Fifteen rally at Rock and Roll McDonalds at 11am, then proceed to BMO Harris Bank, where YMCA board chairman Peter McNitt serves as Vice Chair. A delegation of workers will enter the bank to confront McNitt about the YMCA’s behavior at the bargaining table, while the rest of the group remains outside to educate passersby about the fight for fair wages at the YMCA and beyond.

“Nobody who works a full day should have to live in poverty, whether they’re stocking shelves at WalMart, flipping burgers at McDonalds, or caring for your children at the YMCA,” said teacher Jaqueline Maxie. Maxie has been with the YMCA since the nineties, but still makes only $10.02 per hour—far short of the $15 per hour being demanded by the Fight for Fifteen strikers. In fact, 76% of the workers involved in the contract fight make less than $15 per hour, while Dick Malone, CEO of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, makes more than a half million dollars per year.

“The fight for respect and fair wages is our fight, too,” Maxie said.

When: Thursday, May 15, 1:15 p.m
Where: Meeting at the corner of LaSalle and Monroe, then marching to BMO Harris Bank at 111 W. Monroe
What: YMCA parents, staff, teachers, and allies will unite with underpaid fast food and retail workers engaging in a nationwide day of action before splitting off to take their message to their employers.

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