October 2014

IN Members Host Town Hall Highlighting Need for Higher Minimum Wage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 30, 2014

CONTACT: Kaitlin DeCero, Kaitlin.decero@seiuhcil.org

Hammond Town Hall Meeting Highlights Need for Higher Minimum Wage

(Hammond, IN) – On Thursday night at the Jean Shephard Center in Hammond, local low-wage workers, elected officials, faith leaders, academics, and community advocates joined together for a Town Hall Meeting about raising the minimum wage.

Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., State Representative Linda Lawson, State Senator Frank Mrvan, Hammond City Councilman Dan Spitale, and Congressman Pete Visclosky’s Chief of Staff Mark Lopez were all present and heard testimony low-wage workers, Professor Ruth Needleman, and NAACP President and Reverend Homer Cobb.

“I’ve been a home care worker for almost 4 years,” said Mary Reeves, a Hammond home care worker. “I make over the minimum wage and I still live paycheck to paycheck. No one who gets up and goes to work every day should be trapped in poverty.”

Low-wage workers spoke out about the day-to-day struggles they face earning $7.25 an hour, attempting to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for their families. There are an estimated 687,000 Hoosiers living on the minimum wage, and more than 7 out of 10 minimum wage earners are women. A minimum wage worker who is paid for 40 hours/week only earns $14,500 a year, leaving them well below the federal poverty line.

The national conversation around raising the minimum wage continues to spark debate as we head into midterm elections, and local workers made the case directly to lawmakers at Thursday’s Town Hall Meeting.

“The minimum wage has remained stagnant as cost of living skyrockets,” explained NAACP President and Associate Minister at Victory in Jesus Church Homer Cobb. “While we are fighting for a higher minimum wage, the ultimate goal should be a sustainable, living wage for working families.”

###

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas unites more than 92,000 healthcare, home care, nursing home and child care workers across four states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Illinois Home Care Worker Patricia Evans Testifies in Washington, DC

20141027 Long Term Care Briefing on Capitol Hill ~ Washington, DCOur very own Illinois home care worker Patricia Evans traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday, October 27, to testify at Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Hill staff briefing on long-term services and supports (LTSS), entitled Long-Term Services and Supports: the Workforce Challenge.

The briefing served as an in-depth review of the demographic challenges of the workforce needed in the future. Patricia was joined by Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Gail McInnes of Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, and Gail Hunt from National Alliance for Caregiving.

Ms. Evans provided moving testimony about her firsthand experience in the industry, and the challenges of low wages and lack of benefits for workers. Here’s an excerpt from her presentation:

Last week, I attended my job’s mandated quarterly training session.  At the end, an administrator complemented us on the high quality of our work which has earned the company the reputation as #1 in the state.  Recently a group from China, observing our operations, was extremely impressed with everything they saw. Yet despite these high accolades, our jobs continue to lack benefits which many companies consider basic. We have no sick days despite a company flu policy which advises employees to stay home when ill to avoid spreading the flu to our clients. We have a vacation plan in name only because the average weekly hours worked is twenty-four. The vacation qualification hours doesn’t fall that low until after four years of employment.  It’s common for many workers to care for family members who have fewer than twenty hours of service a week so they never qualify for a vacation. Paid holidays also require qualifying hours. We have no retirement plan.  Social Security was never meant to provide 100% of retirement support but one would never know that observing home care agency’s benefit packages. Not to mention, if your client goes to the doctor, you don’t get paid. Your client goes to the hospital for three weeks, you don’t get paid. Your client takes a trip, you don’t get paid. Your client forgets it’s your day to work and goes shopping, you don’t get paid. We don’t get paid even though we’ve made ourselves available to work yet couldn’t work through no fault of our own. This occurs in many jobs, but when you earn minimum wage your full paycheck is often inadequate to meet your basic bills.

You live in poverty. You work in poverty. You retire poor, hoping you will qualify for the services you have provided for so many years to others. Then, you die in poverty. The only ones who avoid this career path are those with employed spouses or other family members and friends who help them out financially. With my current low salary and part-time hours, I struggle to pay my monthly bills to keep a roof over my head and transportation under my feet.  I don’t know how my co-workers with children get by. This is important work. We are people of worth. We make a valuable contribution to society, and it’s time that our paychecks reflected that.

Big congratulations to Patricia Evans on this exciting accomplishment! See more photos from the hearing here.

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Home Care Fight for $15 Coming to a Community and Ballot Box Near You

20141016-Facebook-Homecare2 (1)Chicago home care workers continued to push forward in the fight for $15 last week, attracting new support and engaging voters around issues relating to home care.

On Wednesday, October 15, a delegation of union and nonunion home care workers met with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky at her Edgewater office. Workers shared the struggles they deal with day to day living on low wages, and explained the difference $15 an hour would make for their families.

“It’s so hard to look at my kids knowing I cannot provide the things they want and need,” explained Danielle Loving, who has provided home care for two years and earns only $9.00/hour. “The worst part is that I’m always working too, I never get to spend the quality time I want to with them, and yet I have nothing to show for it.”

Representative Schakowsky listened intently and then pledged her support to the fight for $15 for home care workers.

“Home care workers hold some of the most important jobs in our country, caring for older Americans and the disabled by providing critical services like bathing, dressing, and preparing meals,” said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. “It’s outrageous that these workers – overwhelmingly women – should have to fight for a decent wage and basic dignity on the job. I will have their backs until they win, and so should every other elected official in this country who cares about the future of America’s workers, our economy, and ensuring we can meet the growing need for quality long-term services.”

Check out photos from the event:

 

From there, home care workers geared up for a ‘Care Canvass’ on Saturday, October 18, fanning out into Chicago’s south side neighborhoods after a rousing speak out from workers and allies.

“As home care workers, we know that while we’re fighting for $15 we can’t lose sight of other ways we can create change and raise wages for workers,” exclaimed OJ McGee, Chicago home care worker and single dad juggling multiple jobs to raise his teenage son. “We have a real opportunity this election because we all can VOTE YES to raising the minimum wage and vote to re-elect a champion for home care, Governor Pat Quinn.”

Katie Jordan, President of the Coalition for Labor Union Women also addressed the crowd Saturday, check out the video:

325 SEIU members, family, friends, and nonunion workers knocked on over 5,000 doors and identified about 1,300 supporters of home care services, an Illinois minimum wage increase, and re-electing Governor Pat Quinn. All this, despite it being a very cold and wet day in Chicago!

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Vote Early to Raise the Minimum Wage in Illinois!

Resources for Early Voting!

In Illinois, early voting starts Monday, October 20th and continues until Sunday, November 2nd.

In order to Early Vote you must bring your government issued photo ID.

Scroll below to find a list of early voting locations in the city of Chicago. Then below that, see a list of early voting locations in the suburbs.

You can also visit the Illinois State Board of Elections by clicking this link to find early voting locations – simply enter your county from the drop down menu. For example, for Cook County you will find this early voting map and flyer; or early voting chart.

 

Chicago Early Voting Locations

*Red indicates sites with Sunday voting.

Board of Elections, Lower Level Conference Room 69 W. Washington St., Chicago, IL

1st Ward – Goldblatts Building 1615 W. Chicago 1615 W. Chicago, Chicago, IL

2nd Ward – Access Living 115 W. Chicago 115 W. Chicago, Chicago, IL

3rd Ward – Chicago Bee Library 3647 S. State, Chicago, IL

*4th Ward – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center 4314 S. Cottage Grove, Chicago, IL

5th Ward – Jackson Park 6401 S. Stony Island 6401 S. Stony Island, Chicago, IL

6th Ward – Whitney Young Library 7901 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. 7901 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Chicago, IL

7th Ward – Jeffery Manor Library 2401 E. 100th St. 2401 E. 100th St., Chicago, IL

8th Ward – Olive Harvey College 10001 S. Woodlawn 10001 S. Woodlawn, Chicago, IL

9th Ward – Palmer Park 201 E. 111th St. 201 E. 111th St., Chicago, IL

10th Ward – Vodak/East Side Library 3710 E. 106th St. 3710 E. 106th St., Chicago, IL

11th Ward – District 9 Police 3120 S. Halsted 3120 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL

12th Ward – McKinley Park 2210 W. Pershing 2210 W. Pershing, Chicago, IL

13th Ward – West Lawn Park 4233 W. 65th St. 4233 W. 65th St., Chicago, IL

14th Ward – Archer Heights Library 5055 S. Archer, Chicago, IL

15th Ward – Gage Park 2411 W 55th St, Chicago, IL

16th Ward – Lindblom Park 6054 S. Damen, Chicago, IL

17th Ward – Thurgood Marshall Library 7506 S. Racine, Chicago, IL

18th Ward – Wrightwood-Ashburn Library 8530 S. Kedzie, Chicago, IL

*19th Ward – Mount Greenwood Park 3721 W. 111th St., Chicago, IL

20th Ward – Coleman Library 731 E. 63rd St., Chicago, IL

21st Ward – Woodson Regional Library 9525 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL

22nd Ward – Piotrowski Park 4247 W. 31st St., Chicago, IL

23rd Ward – Clearing Library 6423 W. 63rd Pl., Chicago, IL

24th Ward – Douglass Library 3353 W. 13th St., Chicago, IL

25th Ward – Chinatown Library 2353 S. Wentworth, Chicago, IL

26th Ward – Humboldt Park Library 1605 N. Troy, Chicago, IL

27th Ward – Eckhart Park 1330 W. Chicago, Chicago, IL

*28th Ward – West Side Learning Center 4624 W. Madison, Chicago, IL

29th Ward – Amundsen Park 6200 W. Bloomingdale, Chicago, IL

30th Ward – Kilbourn Park 3501 N. Kilbourn, Chicago, IL

31st Ward – Portage Cragin Library 5108 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL

32nd Ward – Bucktown-Wicker Park Library 1701 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL

33rd Ward – Horner Park 2741 W. Montrose, Chicago IL

34th Ward – West Pullman Library 830 W. 119th St., Chicago, IL

35th Ward – Independence Library 3548 W. Irving Park, Chicago, IL

36th Ward – West Belmont Library 3104 N. Narragansett, Chicago, IL

37th Ward – West Chicago Library 4856 W. Chicago, Chicago, IL

38th Ward – Hiawatha Park 8029 W. Forest Preserve, Chicago, IL

39th Ward – N. Park Village Admin Bldg 5801 N. Pulaski, Chicago, IL

40th Ward – Budlong Woods Library 5630 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL

41st Ward – Roden Library 6083 N. Northwest Hwy., Chicago, IL

42nd Ward – Museum of Broadcast Communications 360 N. State, Chicago, IL

43rd Ward – Lincoln Park Library 1150 W. Fullerton, Chicago, IL

44th Ward – Merlo Library 644 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL

45th Ward – District 16 Police 5151 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL

46th Ward – Truman College 1145 W. Wilson, Chicago, IL

*47th Ward – Welles Park 2333 W. Sunnyside, Chicago, IL

48th Ward – Broadway Armory Park 5917 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL

49th Ward – Pottawattomie Park 7340 N. Rogers, Chicago, IL

50th Ward – Warren Park 6601 N. Western, Chicago, IL

Suburban Cook County Early Voting Locations

*Red indicates sites with Sunday Voting

Alsip Village Hall 4500 W. 123rd St., Alsip, IL 60803

*Arlington Heights Village Hall 33 S. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Barrington Township Hall 602 S. Hough St.Barrington, IL 60010

Bellwood Village Hall 3200 Washington Blvd., Bellwood, IL 60104

Berwyn City Hall 6700 W. 26th St., Berwyn, IL 60402

*Calumet City Public Library 660 Manistee Ave., Calumet City, IL 60409

Calumet Township, Community Center 12633 S. Ashland Ave., Calumet Park, IL 60827

Centennial Park 2300 2300 Old Glenview Rd., Wilmette, IL 60091

*Cicero Community Center 2250 S. 49th Ave., Cicero, IL 60804

*Cicero PSO Building 5410 W. 34th St., Cicero, IL 60804

*County Clerk’s Main Office 69 W. WashingtonSt. Pedway & 5th Floor, Chicago

*Des Plaines City Hall 1420 Miner St., Des Plaines, IL 60016

Elk Grove Village Hall 901 Wellington Ave., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Elmwood Park Village Hal 11 W. Conti Pkwy., Elmwood Park, IL 60707

*Evanston Civic Center 2100 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL 60201

Faith Family Future Center 6931 South Park Ave., South Holland, IL 60473

Glenview Village Hall 1225 Waukegan Rd., Glenview, IL 60025

*Hodgkins Village Hall 8990 Lyons St., Hodgkins, IL 60525

Hoffman Estates Village Hall 1900 Hassell Rd., Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Lemont Library District 50 East Wend St., Lemont, IL 60439

*Lynwood Senior Youth Center 21490 Lincoln Hwy., Lynwood, IL 60411

Melrose Park Village Hall Melrose Park Village Hall 1000 N. 25th Ave., Melrose Park, IL 60160

Niles Village Hall 1000 Civic Center Drive, Niles, IL 60714

Norridge Village Hall 4000 N. Olcott, Ave., Norridge, IL 60706

*Northbrook Village Hall 1225 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, IL 60062

*Oak Forest City Hall 15440 S. Central Ave., Oak Forest, IL 60452

*Oak Lawn Village Hall 9446 S. Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, IL 60453

*Oakwood Recreation Center 4550 Oakwood Ln., Matteson, IL

*Oak Park Village Hall 123 Madison St., Oak Park, IL 60302

*Orland Township Hall 14807 Ravinia Ave., Orland Park, IL 60462

Palatine Village Hall 200 East Wood St., Palatine, IL 60067

Palos Heights Administration 7607 W. College Dr., Building Palos Heights, IL 60463

Park Forest Village Hall 350 Victory Blvd., Park Forest, IL 60466

Park Ridge City Hall 505 Butler Pl., Park Ridge, IL 60068

*Schaumburg Public Library 130 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60193

Skokie Village Hall 5127 Oakton St., Skokie, IL 60077

Stickney-Forest View Public Library 6800 W. 43rd St., Stickney, IL 60402

Streamwood Village Hall 301 E. Irving Park Rd., Streamwood, IL 60107

Bridgeview Courthouse 10220 S. 76th Ave., Room 238, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Markham Courthouse 16501 S. Kedzie Ave., Room 238, Markham, IL 60428

Whitcomb Building (near, Maywood Courthouse) 1311 Maybrook Sq., Room 104, Maywood, IL 60153

Rolling Meadows Courthouse 2121 Euclid Ave., Room 238 2121 Euclid Ave., Room 238, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008

Skokie Courthouse 5600 W. Old Orchard Rd., Room 149 5600 W. Old Orchard Rd., Room 149, Skokie, IL 60077

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Chicago Home Care Workers Launch Fight for $15, Taking Push for Higher Wages to the Ballot Box

Home Care Fight for $15

https://www.facebook.com/ilhcfightfor15

@IL_homecareff15

 

For Immediate Release: October 15, 2014

Contact: Kaitlin DeCero, Kaitlin.decero@seiuhcil.org

 

Chicago Home Care Workers Launch Fight for $15, Taking Push for Higher Wages to the Ballot Box

 U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky stands with home care workers who Chicago seniors, people with disabilities, promising to back push for higher pay 

 

Chicago, IL – Workers who care for Chicago’s elderly and people with disabilities helped launch the home care Fight for $15 week of action on October 15, at a meeting with U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. Less than a month from Election Day, Representative Schakowsky joined the workers to pledge her support for their drive for higher pay and better rights on the job.

The action was one of nearly a dozen being led across the country this week by both union and nonunion home care workers. From coast to coast, in red states and blue ones, they are challenging local, state, and federal candidates to do whatever it takes to raise pay to $15 per hour for America’s fastest-growing workforce.

“We work hard every day to care for those who need us, but are paid so little that we can barely afford to take care of ourselves or our families,” said OJ McGee, home care worker from the South Side of Chicago. “The pay we earn just doesn’t cut it, so we’re joining together to demand more, and we’re asking our elected leaders to support us.”

In cities across the country, candidates joined home care workers this week to declare their support for the Fight for $15. On Wednesday, home care workers rallied with Washington DC mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser after she signed a pledge to back home care workers in drive for higher wages. Home care workers also rallied with supportive elected officials in Washington state and Massachusetts.

“Home care workers hold some of the most important jobs in our country, caring for older Americans and the disabled by providing critical services like bathing, dressing, and preparing meals,” said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. “It’s outrageous that these workers – overwhelmingly women – should have to fight for a decent wage and basic dignity on the job. I will have their backs until they win, and so should every other elected official in this country who cares about the future of America’s workers, our economy, and ensuring we can meet the growing need for quality long-term services.”

As they take the Fight for $15 to the ballot box, home care workers across the country also confronted candidates who have stood in the way of higher wages. Home care workers on Wednesday protested outside the campaign offices of GOP Senate candidates Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and David Perdue in Georgia, after each candidate declined to sign a pledge committing to help home care workers raise their pay to $15 per hour. In Ohio, they confronted Gov. John Kasich at his office in Columbus.

Chicago caregivers will unite again on Saturday, October 18, for a Care Canvass. Workers will share testimony during a speak-out before fanning out in the community on Chicago’s south side to talk about the importance of raising the minimum wage and electing lawmakers that support home care services.

These actions follow the first-ever Home Care Workers Summit in St. Louis, MO, from Oct. 5 to 7. And they come just after a month after home care workers, inspired by the nearly two-year-old campaign for higher pay and union rights by fast-food workers, announced they were joining the Fight for $15.

As baby boomers age, home care is America’s fastest-growing occupation, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that from 2012 through 2022, more home care jobs will be created than any other occupation. Already, there are 2.5 million home care workers across the country—and that doesn’t include many more who work in the informal economy and aren’t captured by government statistics.

Yet while the industry is expanding, its wages remain low. The average wage of a home care worker is just $9.57 per hour. For someone working full-time, that’s $383 a week before taxes, or $1,531 a month, barely enough to rent a one bedroom apartment in many parts of the country, let alone pay for utilities, food, gas, and child care expenses.

Even these figures are high, since they don’t account for the unpredictable and part-time hours that reduce home care wages even further. The result is median annual earnings of just $17,000 a year. Black and Latina women bear the brunt of these low wages, as the workforce is 91% female and 56% non-white.

“Higher wages and better rights for workers in home care would drive a more broadly shared recovery, helping millions move into the middle class,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. “By joining together, home care workers will have the strength to win improvements not only for themselves and their families, but for our entire economy.”

 

# # #

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Care Canvass: Saturday, October 18 @ 10 a.m.

i love hc workers

This Saturday, home care workers and allies nationwide are participating in a Care Canvass ahead of critical November elections. The Care Canvass will be taking place in over a dozen cities across the country! Together, we will engage voters around the need for a stable long-term care system. Everyone should have access to the services they need to live independently at home with dignity, and no one should be paid poverty wages or denied decent benefits to do this vital work.

On Saturday in Chicago, we will take our message to communities on the south side, encouraging voters to support an increase to the minimum wage that will raise wages for all Illinois workers, including those working in home care, and the need to elect lawmakers that stand with home care workers and consumers.

canvassing 2Join us!

Saturday October 18th

10 AM – 2 PM

8658 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

Did you like this? Share it:
1 Comment

Workers at Cedars of Town & Country Win Their Union!

Photo Sep 26, 5 43 07 PMAlmost 200 workers at Cedars of Town & Country, a nursing home facility in the west suburbs of St. Louis, voted recently to become the newest members of SEIU Healthcare.

Workers overcame an intense anti-union campaign from management, even circulating a petition demanding an end to intimidation of union supporters. The retaliation and captive audience meetings weren’t enough to break the resolve of workers though.

“I voted yes because we’ve lost a lot of good workers, and we need more supplies for our residents. Our union will give us a voice on the job and provide security so that the employer can’t do whatever they want,” said Stephanie James, an LPN at the facility.

“This is our chance to improve our jobs and the quality of care we provide at our facility,” explained CNA Angela Perdue.

Next steps include gearing up for first contract negotiations by electing a team of coworkers to sit across the table from management, and deciding top priorities to fight for.

Congratulations and welcome to our union, Cedars workers!

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

First-Ever Home Care Workers Rising Summit Unites Hundreds in St. Louis

cag summitHome care workers – union and nonunion, seniors, people with disabilities, and advocates united earlier this week in St. Louis for the first-ever Home Care Workers Rising Summit. The event provided a unique opportunity to bring together voices from across the country with the common goal of moving home care forward. SEIU Healthcare members from Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri participated, as well as several nonunion home care workers who have joined the fight for $15 and a union at their agencies as well.

“This was such an amazing experience,” explained nonunion home care worker Danielle Loving. “I’ve never felt such unity with people I was meeting for the first time!”

Plenaries and workshop sessions addressed the issues and skills needed to take on the challenges and opportunities that care workers are facing right now. The Home Care Fight for $15 was a central theme throughout, and Illinois home care workers shared the work underway already to grow our movement and keep the momentum going.

SEIU HCII Executive Board Chair Flora Johnson also was awarded the Evelyn Coke Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday night during the Summit. Read more here. 

On Tuesday morning, we marched side by side with Missouri home care workers who are fighting for a first contract and then rallied outside of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s office. Here are remarks that Gilda Brown, Personal Assistant from Chicago, shared at the rally:

DSC_0156I’m so proud to be here in St. Louis standing with fellow home care workers in the Missouri Home Care Union as they fight for their first contract!

13,000 Missouri home care workers have been fighting for years for their union and a voice. It’s been a long battle but we all know this will pay off and there are tens of thousands of home care workers nationwide who have your backs!

You can look to neighboring states like Illinois to see the power we have when we come together. 30 years ago Illinois home care workers like me made only $1 an hour and had no healthcare, no training. I’m very proud to say that this December 1st, we will start earning $13 an hour! And we have quality health insurance and paid training too.

In Illinois, we have a governor who understands how critical the work we do is – we keep tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities out of costly institutional care and at home where they want to be. Governor Quinn knows that decent wages and fair benefits mean reduced turnover and more stability for those who need home care services. Because of Governor Quinn’s support we’ve been able to truly move home care forward in Illinois.

It’s time for Governor Nixon to step up and support home care workers and consumers in Missouri.

 

The energy and excitement was powerful, with home care leaders ready to bring the fight back to our communities.mhcu march rally 10.7.14

“The Summit was such a wonderful experience,” said Kendra Bush, Indiana home care worker and SEIU Healthcare member. “One of the best parts was hearing everyone’s stories, we all have them and I think sharing our personal stories is exactly how we can get more people involved in this movement. I came home and returned to work caring for my 98 year old client and was reminded that this is what it’s all about – keeping people like him living at home comfortably where they want to be.”

Check out the slide show below for photos from the three-day summit.

 

Did you like this? Share it:
1 Comment

HCII Executive Board Chair Flora Johnson Honored with Evelyn Coke Lifetime Achievement Award

DSC_0072

From left: Secretary Treasurer Myra Glassman, Executive Board Chair Flora Johnson, and President Keith Kelleher

We’re very proud to announce that on Monday, October 6, our very own Executive Board Chair and Personal Assistant Flora Johnson was awarded with the Evelyn Coke Lifetime Achievement Award in St. Louis.

Flora has been a leader for 12 years in our union, anchoring activism in Chicago. She has logged more than 250 union activities, from rallies,  to actions and negotiations – plus everything in between!

Flora has served as the SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas Executive Board Chair since 2008 and also was the President of former Local 880.

In addition to her activism, Flora, who’s now 81 years strong, has been a Personal Assistant for 15 years for her son Kenneth, who was born with cerebral palsy. Flora has lobbied tirelessly for accessible services and fully funded home care programs for seniors and people with disabilities.

The award was presented by SEIU HCIIMK President Keith Kelleher and SEIU International Vice President Kirk Adams. Here are Flora’s remarks upon accepting this incredible honor:

Thank you so much to Kirk Adams for his unwavering leadership nationally, and to my dear friend and partner in the fight to lift home care workers out of the shadows, Keith Kelleher.

I’m Flora Johnson and this is such an honor to receive this award with you all tonight. We’ve come together from all over the country and we have an important common bond that connects us to each other, and that is a commitment to moving home care forward – for seniors, people with disabilities, families, and workers.

My story starts 47 years ago on the south side of Chicago, when my son Kenneth was born. Kenneth has cerebral palsy and needs help with the everyday tasks that many of us take for granted – help with getting dressed, eating, bathing, exercise, and more. I’ve been caring for Kenneth his entire life, and thanks to home care programs he’s been able to remain living at home where he wants to be. And he has a full life, he makes me so proud. Whether it’s Kenneth running circles around me on the computer or when he’s travelling all over the world to compete internationally playing bocce ball, he has led an independent life with dignity and for that I am so thankful.

But without a strong home care program in Illinois, I don’t know if this would have been possible. And the way we have been able to build this program to where it’s at today is through our union.

30 years ago, Illinois home care workers made $1 an hour, with no benefits, no training, and no voice at all. We lived in the shadows with our consumers.

I remember the first time an organizer came to my door to get me involved in making change for workers and home care consumers. His name was Ross, and he didn’t take no for an answer. He kept coming back and I kept listening, but kept saying no.

Then, I finally realized, Ross was right, and Ross was going to keep coming back until I got the message.

From there, I attended my first meeting and I was blown away – and the rest is history!

Everything changed with our union. The State had to take us seriously and by uniting with seniors and people with disabilities, we are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Today, Personal Assistants in Illinois earn $12.25 an hour, and starting on December 1, we will earn $13 an hour. We have quality health insurance. We have paid training. And best of all, turnover has gone down and home care consumers get the reliable, qualified workforce that they need.

But we’re not done yet! We’re looking ahead to winning $15 and paid time off!

This past summer a Supreme Court case, Harris v Quinn, brought by the National Right to Work Foundation attempted to take us backward. We know we’re being attacked because we’re strong and we will not let any court case stop home care workers and consumers from sticking together and fighting for good jobs and quality care.

Many questioned if home care unions could survive the blow from that Supreme Court decision. I think they got their answer when 27,000 caregivers in Minneosta voted to unite and join the fight with SEIU in July! Don’t you?! Congratulations Minnesota!

And how fitting that we’re standing together here in Missouri, where 13,000 home care workers are fighting for their first contract! Missouri Home Care Union workers – we’ve ALL got your backs!

As we continue this summit and head back to our communities, it’s up to us to get creative about reaching out to millions of caregivers to bring them into this fight so we have the strength to take on the challenges ahead. I know I’m up for it, and I’m counting on all of you to join me.

Thank you.

 

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment