FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 30, 2014
CONTACTS: Ricki Seidman, TSD Communications: (202) 986-9811
Tyler Prell, SEIU: (202) 701-5796
Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Home Care in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling
Caregivers to Work with States and Consumers to Ensure a Strong Voice for Care
WASHINGTON, DC – Home care workers and consumers are ready to stand up for quality home care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn today.
“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”
The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care—and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.
“I count on my home care provider for so much—I wouldn’t be able to work or get through the day without her,” said Rahnee Patrick, a home care consumer and advocate from ACCESS Living in Chicago.” “I’m worried that I could lose her if her wages and benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.”
The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton family. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.
“They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers,” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago. “Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.”
“For our parents and grandparents to get the care they need to live at home, workers need a strong voice in a union,” Henry said. “I know that Flora Johnson other SEIU members are determined to keep up the fight to end poverty wages and ensure quality care.”
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2.1 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages, benefits and create better communities, while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.
Workers at Christian Care Home held a picket on Thursday, June 12, to highlight unfair labor practice violations committed by management, including retaliation for public union support. Negotiations at the facility have been ongoing for four months, and workers have made it clear that a primary goal is to try and reduce turnover at the facility so residents have a steady, reliable workforce. According to information provided by the home, Christian Care Home has experienced a 400% turnover rate for CNA’s in the last 3 years and is one of the lowest paid facilities in the county.
“I’m picketed because we need to see the quality of care for our residents improved, and because my co-workers and I need to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Paula Jones, a CMT for Christian Care Nursing Home.
Christian Care Home has been cited 17 times by the state of Missouri since 2009.
Workers at Christian Care Home say they will continue standing up for quality care for residents and quality jobs for those who keep the nursing home going.
On Saturday, June 14, home care workers, child care providers, hospital and nursing home workers gathered in Lawndale at the Grace Memorial Baptist Church to kick off a summer of planned activities around registering new voters and winning an increase to the minimum wage. A training on how to register new voters preceded a speak-out session where two home care workers shared their personal stories of struggling to get by on $11.85/hour – illustrating that our current minimum wage of $8.25 simply cannot support an adult, much less a family.
Melody Benjamin, a home care provider from Chicago’s west side, brought along her budget to share the tough decisions she faces every month, choosing which bills to pay while still keeping food on the table and a roof over her head.
“I support an increase to the minimum wage because I look around my community and see my neighbors are struggling just like me. Our neighborhood is plagued with crime and violence, and I think the first step to addressing these issues is ensuring there are living wage jobs available that people can support a family on,” explained Benjamin.
“I’m a single dad trying to raise my son the best that I can. I have to work multiple jobs to get by because wages are so low. If we can raise the wage for those at the bottom, we will all be better off,” said McGee.
Members spent the rest of the afternoon registering new voters and getting commitments from registered voters to turn out and support a minimum wage increase this fall on the ballot.
As we mobilize around the state level increase, we are also keeping the pressure on in Chicago to win a $15 an hour minimum wage for those employed by corporations earning more than $50 million a year in profit.
“We’re voting for $10, and fighting for $15!” exclaimed Melody Benjamin. Check out this video message with more of what Melody had to say here.
Stay tuned for upcoming voter registration and minimum wage events in your area – we’ve got a summer full of action planned!
The summit brought together activists from across the city, united in our determination to increase funding and access to prekindergarten education for Chicago kids and hold decision makers accountable to building the transparent and equitable system that our kids deserve.
Family child care provider Tosha Kelly helped to host the summit, leading a presentation that highlighted the gulf between the resources that the city of Chicago makes available to parents now, and what we’ll need to put all of our kids on the path to educational success.
“Everybody who cares about early education in this city has been saying the same things for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve gathered to work on them together. Everyone at the summit was on board and engaged in keeping this effort moving,” said Tosha.
Tosha, a Head Start graduate herself, spoke from years of experience at the summit, having worked in early education for more than a decade. “We know that Head Start really works when it’s done right, but we can’t separate the need for quality education from the need for quality pay for teachers. One can’t exist without the other—our kids deserve qualified teachers who aren’t struggling with poverty themselves.”
Lydia Dorynek, a preschool teacher at A Children’s Place, was encouraged by the way that parents and teachers found common ground at the summit.
“We came up with lots of good ideas and started to identify smaller fights we can win on the way to the big victory of preschool for all,” said Lydia. “The most important thing right now is increasing public awareness of the importance of early childhood education, and working to increase funding at every level.”