If you missed our telephone town hall meeting for DORS Personal Assistants on Thursday, May 26, you can read all the updates below.
We have a huge victory to celebrate – the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed our bill that will protect health insurance and training, and guarantee a $15/hour minimum wage for Personal Assistants. This bill was part of our union’s legislative package, that also includes:
Over the holiday weekend, lawmakers passed bills to protect the Community Care Program from Governor Rauner’s $200 million cut, and to protect health insurance and raise wages for home care aides to $15/hour. We are still awaiting passage of our child care expansion bill, but lawmakers took bold action by passing the critical pieces of legislation protecting child care providers, personal assistants, home care aides, and seniors from Governor Rauner’s attacks.
We got legislators in the General Assembly to support our fight for $15 thanks to the thousands of PAs and people with disabilities who took action. From making phone calls to state lawmakers, attending meetings and actions, traveling to Springfield to lobby, and speaking out in the media – everyone who did something to make this happen should feel incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished.
It’s very exciting, but there is still a fight ahead of us because our bill is now at the governor’s desk. He has two choices: he can either sign the bill into law, or he can veto the bill. If the Governor signs the bill, Personal Assistants will start earning $15 on July 1st, and our healthcare and our training would be secured.
However, given that this governor has been demanding a 4-year wage freeze at the bargaining table, we can expect Bruce Rauner to veto our bill and deny us our chance to earn the $15 that we deserve. He’s even already making threats, saying if we earn $15/hour he will have to cut other services and programs. This is just the governor trying to turn others against us. Raising wages for the Personal Assistants – some of the lowest paid state workers – isn’t going to bankrupt Illinois and isn’t going to mean home care services get cut. We all know the Governor significantly raised salaries for his own staff when he took over, the governor didn’t claim this would result in cuts to services, did he? No, he didn’t. And when Rauner pays out fees to big banks each month , or when he gives tax breaks to big corporations, he isn’t talking about how that’s hurting Illinois’ most vulnerable either.
We know that raising wages for Personal Assistants is critical to improving care for people with disabilities and that’s why disability advocates are standing with us in our fight for $15. When workers earn a wage they can support themselves on, and have access to basic benefits like health insurance and training, we know that skilled, reliable caregivers are able to stay on the job and continue to serve their consumers. This creates stability for our consumers and will help meet the increasing demand for home care services.
If Governor Rauner vetoes our bill, that doesn’t mean this is over. We had overwhelming support in both the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House, and with just a few more supporters we would have the numbers we need to override the governor’s veto. We have our work cut out for us though, because we will have to convince some republicans to support us. In either case, the Governor has 60 days to sign or veto our legislation, so we will keep everyone informed on next steps.
We are continuing to bargain in good faith with the State, even though they are refusing to. Rauner is escalating his attacks, so we must escalate our fight for a strong contract. Since Governor Rauner illegally implemented his DORS overtime policy on May 1, we’ve escalated our fight in big ways and we must do the same to win a fair contract.
On our last call at the end of April, we discussed how the Governor tried to use overtime as a bargaining chip to get us to agree to a 4-year wage freeze for PAs and also for child care providers as well. The overwhelming majority of PAs said we should not agree to a 4-year wage freeze so we rejected the Governor’s ridiculous and unfair proposal, and we fought back. PAs and people with disabilities impacted by the overtime policy have been all over the press – sharing their stories and the negative impact this policy is having on their lives. In Chicago, 16 brave Personal Assistants and people with disabilities risked arrest by committing civil disobedience and blocking a major street near a DHS office to protest to what’s happening.
Soon after, State Representative Mary Flowers called an emergency hearing in the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee where advocates, PAs, and consumers had the opportunity to testify about why this policy must be suspended immediately. Officials from DHS, including the Home Services Bureau Chief Vivian Anderson, were there and had to listen to all the testimony before lawmakers grilled them about their terrible policy.
Later that day, a larger group of home care workers, consumers, and advocates disrupted an event Governor Rauner was attending in Springfield and confronted him directly about his Overtime Policy. We caught Rauner off guard and forced him to see the faces of the people with disabilities and workers he’s hurting. Our message was amplified through the media and we put the Governor on notice, forcing him to slip out a back door.
Meanwhile, PAs and consumers sent emails and made phone calls to Vivian Anderson, to increase the pressure.
Soon after and no doubt thanks to all the pressure they were feeling, the State informed us that they will not be imposing any discipline against Personal Assistants who worked over 40 hours during the first two weeks of May – between May 1-15. This is some good news, but the State is saying they will start disciplining people for the next pay period so we must keep up the pressure. Our union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the state for implementing their overtime policy – we believe it is illegal for them to implement this policy because we have not finished bargaining over it.
Here is what our union is advising for those PAs who have overtime hours and your consumer has been unable to find additional caregivers:
Just like with overtime, the state is also trying to implement a new background check system without coming to an agreement with our union. PAs have probably received a letter from the state about this new IMPACT system that requires background checks. Our union has demanded that the state bargain the terms with us. We have also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the state – just as we did when they implemented the overtime policy without negotiating a deal with us.
Our union understands the importance of people with disabilities having caregivers they can count on to have their best interests at heart, but it’s important that background checks do not infringe upon consumers rights or unfairly target PAs. We will continue to demand that the State bargain with us over their background check policy and we encourage PAs to report concerns or issues with it to our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348. We will be in touch as we have new updates on this front.
My name is K.L. Cleeton of Effingham and I am a 26 year old person with a disability. I have a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that is best understood as being something like completely paralyzed from the neck down, but with full and complete feeling. Because of this, I require 24-hour assistance for literally every aspect of my life. Everything from having an itch scratched and getting a drink to going the restroom and handling my personal care, is something I rely on completely and totally from my parents. Obviously, this level of required assistance wouldn’t be possible without the DORS Home Services Program.
This program is important beyond words in allowing me to maintain my independence. Not only am I able to remain in my home, but I’m able to remain in the care of the 2 people that know me better than anyone in the world ever possibly could; my parents. When even the littlest things like eating and drinking are difficult and become a choking hazard, having my parents as my personal assistants, all the time, is one of the most comforting thoughts in the world.
There are quite literally an infinite number of reasons why the demands you are making of Home Services consumers are completely and totally unreasonable, and I would be more than happy to have a conversation with you about what those specific reasons are. However, for this correspondence, let’s stick to one hypothetical. Imagine for a moment that you are me. You are unable to move your arms or legs. You are only working with about 18% of your lung capacity. Because of your disease, which by definition is significantly decreased muscle strength, you have serious difficulty swallowing, which makes drinking and eating more difficult. Your parents, the people who know you the best, are your personal assistants. But now, you’re being told that you have to give up that comforting thought, because your disability is severe enough that you require more hours per week than they are allowed to work. Can’t you see how you are punishing individuals with severe disabilities for the very fact that they have that disability? These limits take away my ability to control who cares for me. You may say, “You can still hire who you would like.” But that’s the issue… I have hired who I would like: my parents.
I am fully aware of the situation our state finds itself in. As a graduate from the University of Illinois, this fact does not escape me. However, you are asking the individuals who are the least able to shoulder this burden to do exactly that. You’re attacking those of us with the least in order to protect those with the most. Sir, in this situation, your policies fly directly in the face of your goal of “ making Illinois the most compassionate state in America.”
I implore you to reconsider your stance, and work with consumers and personal assistants to find a reasonable alternative for everyone involved. Also, before you have actually seen and experienced something firsthand, can you really make an informed decision about what the policies should be? I don’t think so, which is why I’d like to invite you down to Effingham to see what a day in the life of me is like.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
(May 12, 2016) — Our nursing home leader, Carl Sims, was invited to speak at the Chicago Fight for $15 convention in Logan Square. Carl gave an exceptional speech about why he’s fighting for $15 an hour for nursing home assistants and ALL low-wage workers, and explained that if he could, he would utilize McDonald’s $368,000,000 in taxpayer subsidies and invest in quality care for residents and give workers economic security.
Watch Carl Sims, Nursing Home Leader, Speak at Fight for $15 Convention, and Urging Workers to Join Low-Wage Workers to Protest McDonald’s Share Holders Meeting On Wednesday, May 25th:
My name is Carl Sims, and I’ve been a nursing home worker for over 23-years and a proud member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois!.
I’m proud to stand in solidarity with the Fight for $15 – and to be a LEADER with our NURSING HOME WORKERS ALSO FIGHTING FOR $15! We stand with the Fight for $15 because we need that $368 Million from McDonald’s to:
1) pay nursing home workers fair and starting wages of $15 an hour!
2) hire enough nursing home workers to eliminate the crisis of short-staffing so we can give quality resident care!
3) expand healthcare and Medicaid for low-income families, children and seniors who urgently need assistance.
That’s what we would do with $368 million! We would demand FAIRNESS and FAIR wages for ALL WORKERS!
(May 17th, 2016, Chicago) –– At our prayer vigil at Loretto Hospital, former nurses, CNAs, and front line hospital workers who were fired or forced to resign by management, joined with faith and community leaders – as well as with current employees – to demand an end to Loretto’s appalling hostile workplace culture and repeated issues of disrespect and retaliation against our workers.
A former registered nurse, Sha-Sha Carter, who served several years, spoke passionately about how her and an entire unit of black nursing staff were unfairly fired by management without due cause or by proper procedures. Pastor Walter Turner led a delegation of leaders to deliver an open letter to Loretto Hospital’s management – see the letter pasted below.
At Community Prayer Vigil: Pastor Walter Turner Calls Out Loretto Hospital’s Hostile Workplace
Sha-Sha Carter, RN, Who Was Unfairly Fired from Loretto Hospital, Speaks About Her Hostile Workplace
May 17, 2016
Dr. Sonia Mehta
CEO and Chief Medical Officer Loretto Hospital
645 S Central Ave,
Chicago, IL 60644
Our Austin community relies on Loretto Hospital for vital healthcare and emergency services, but also as an institution that brings jobs, economic stability and resources that supports working families. It is absolutely vital that Loretto Hospital is a thriving, growing and innovative healthcare facility that is welcoming to patients and families as well as workers who give quality care.
But to Austin community and faith leaders it is clear that Loretto has become a very hostile work environment for many low-wage staff. These workers have relayed concerns that they feel disrespected, marginalized, and intimidated by management.
Both current and former Loretto employees have come forward to talk about some troubling incidents of racial insensitivity, a lack of willingness by management to listen and engage with front line workers, and a host of reports of workers who have been fired or who are simply leaving the hospital at a disturbing rate. How can Loretto Hospital function, not to mention prosper, when workers are fleeing for the door at a steady pace because of the workplace culture?
We are sounding the alarm and urging management to recognize that there is a problem at Loretto and ask management to put forward a comprehensive plan that empowers workers and gives them a real voice on the job. Management should invite all staff to help be problem-solvers to address the workplace culture, and setup on-going communication and various committees to make sure that the hospital is making progress on these issues.
It is not easy to come forward and publicly address these uncomfortable issues. But based on the reports and information coming out of Loretto, that workers are being treated poorly, this issue has become too grave to ignore or deflect.
Loretto serves some of the toughest and most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Chicago. It is, and must continue to be, a resource and a leader that hires workers from our community, pays them a fair wage, and treats them with the decency, respect and professionalism that any worker deserves. That is clearly not currently happening at Loretto and must urgently change.
We strongly encourage the management and the board of Loretto Hospital to take our concerns and this letter seriously and work cooperatively with staff to change the hostile work environment.
SPRINGFIELD-Voting with huge majorities, the General Assembly on Wednesday took major steps to protect the system of child care and home healthcare built up over the years with bipartisan support that has been under attack by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
By votes of 68-43 and 67-44, the House of Representatives approved legislation, part of an “Invest in Illinois” package, that would preserve health insurance, training and living wages for the workforce that cares for people with disabilities, seniors and children of working parents.
Following is the statement of Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union that represents the state’s caregiving workforce:
“Today’s votes were a positive step in preserving a system of care that has served Illinois well, allowing working parents a pathway to the Middle Class, giving seniors and people with disabilities choice and independence in their care, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and fulfilling our moral obligations to take care of our neighbor.
“Child care and home healthcare have been under relentless assault by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has chosen to use the pain of our state’s most vulnerable populations as a tool to extract radical concessions and score political victories that have NOTHING to do with the welfare of our state.
“It’s too bad that Republicans who formerly supported these vital programs for their constituents have been silenced by Gov. Rauner, who has injected politics into what both sides of the aisle, for decades, have considered good policy.
“The legislation that passed will preserve the training that keeps the cared-for safe; preserve the health insurance that keeps the caregiving workforce healthy and saves taxpayer dollars; and ensure that the lowest-paid workforce in the state is able to stay on the job and provide a continuity in care for seniors, children and people with disabilities.
“Our workers and the people for whom they care have suffered unduly because of Bruce Rauner’s heartless choices. Today, our General Assembly did the right thing both morally and economically. This marks a big step in rolling back the Rauner overreach and ensuring that everyone in Illinois who is in need of care can get it.”
In case you missed it, Personal Assistants and people with disabilities had a HUGE week!
On Wednesday, SEIU Healthcare Executive Board member and Personal Assistant Ginger Grant from Charleston, IL, joined a panel of advocates, caregivers, and people with disabilities to testify in front of the Illinois House Committee on Health Care Availability and Accessibility. Committee chairwoman State Representative Mary Flowers called the emergency hearing after becoming aware of the terrible Overtime Policy that Governor Rauner has imposed on the Home Services Program. After hearing powerful testimony about the suffering this policy is causing, the committee grilled and chastised DHS for their misguided and poorly implemented policy. Stay tuned for next steps out of the Committee, and check out this great press story that was picked up statewide.
Later that day, a larger group of Personal Assistants, people with disabilities, and advocates crashed an event Governor Rauner was attending and confronted him directly about his Overtime Policy. We caught Rauner off guard and forced him to see the faces of the Illinoisans he’s hurting. Our message was amplified through the media that covered our action and we put the Governor on notice, forcing him to slip out a back door. Check out photos from the action here, and then share this awesome video that captures the key moments.
While we were confronting the Governor, the Illinois Senate passed our legislation with a SUPERMAJORITY that would protect our health insurance and training, and guarantee a $15/hour minimum wage for Personal Assistants! This critical bill now heads to the House and we expect them to take it up next week. We will keep you posted on developments there as well, but read our statement about the historic move here.
Finally, on Thursday, over 600 home care workers, child care providers, seniors, people with disabilities, and kids converged on the Illinois Statehouse for a massive lobby day to push for support of our entire Invest in Illinois legislative package. This package includes our bills to get home care workers to $15/hour, in addition to protecting healthcare and training for home care and child care providers, and expanding the Child Care Assistance Program.
While we were making a splash in Springfield, there were also actions happening in communities across the state – like Pekin and Galesburg.
We had a powerful week, and we cannot let up now! On Wednesday, May 18, our brothers and sisters in other unions, community organizations, and social service providers will join at the State Capitol to send Governor Rauner a message 10,000 voices strong: it’s time to stop the attack on working families! You can get more details about this event organized by Illinois Working Together and RSVP here.
CHICAGO-Following is the statement of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President Terri Harkin after the Illinois Senate voted today to pass SB 2931, the Workforce Protection Bill for Home Healthcare Providers Serving People With Disabilities. SB 2931 would raise the wage to an historic $15/hour for the providers — the vast majority of which are women — who care for people with disabilities, as well as protect their health insurance and training. The passage of SB 2931 comes on the heels of the Senate’s vote to protect health insurance and training for the child care workforce. Both bills are part of the “Invest in Illinois” legislative package advanced by SEIU Healthcare and disability advocates to defend caregivers and those they serve from Governor Rauner’s dangerous cuts.
“This is an important victory. We applaud the Illinois Senate for protecting some of the state’s lowest-paid workers from Bruce Rauner’s vicious attacks.
“The Senate has taken the correct stance on behalf of caregivers and people with disabilities to stop efforts that would destabilize the workforce, jeopardize the safety of people with disabilities, and cost taxpayers more in the long run.
“The passage of SB 2931 is a much-needed response to Governor Rauner’s cruel and regressive efforts to freeze wages and other tactics to weaken the workforce, which are separating people with disabilities from their families and eviscerating the economic livelihoods of the majority-women caregiving workforce. We are grateful to the Senate for passing an historic $15 minimum wage for caregivers and rejecting Rauner’s attacks on women, people with disabilities, and working families across Illinois.”
After a 4 month contract battle with SSM Health, members wrapped up an intense fight presenting coworkers with a strong second contract. SLUH employees made it a priority to both raise the floor and raise the ceiling for wages at SLUH, with Fight for 15 rallying cry.
Although we had hoped as a local, not-for-profit, mission-driven organization, SSM Health would be a better bargaining partner, we soon realized it was only interested in nickel and dime offers.
Members fought back and showed unity with sticker actions, petitions, marching on managers, and a huge rally drawing media attention. Our action forced SSM back to the table to negotiate with us fairly.
While there’s still work to do to win 100% of what we want, we won great progress on many of our priorities.
Here are some highlights of what we won:
BY RAISING THE STARTING WAGE TO $15 AN HOUR FOR ALL HOSPITAL AND HEALTHCARE WORKERS, NMH WOULD GIVE A MAJOR ECONOMIC BOOST TO WORKING FAMILIES, IMPROVE OUR LOCAL ECONOMY, AND STRENGTHEN QUALITY CARE FOR OUR PATIENTS!
Lakeena Whitfield, PCT: “As a senior employee at NMH, I make over $15 an hour. But what is completely unfair is that we have fellow workers who make far below that. That has to change, especially since our CEO, Dean Harrison’s total compensation in 2014 was $3,666,785. That comes out to $1,762.88. an hour! That’s why we are joining the Fight for $15 to raise the starting wage floor for all healthcare workers and fight for 15% across the board raises to strengthen our workforce.
Juraine Johnson, EVS: “It is a constant struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month. And the work itself is exhausting. I know how hard I work and that I contribute to the success of Northwestern Hospital. I’m simply asking for a fair wage of $15 an hour on behalf of all my fellow hospital and healthcare workers. As working people, we are in this fight together to better our lives and support our families. But right now we’re barely treading water. That’s why I’m ready and willing to join the Fight for $15! Our families can’t wait!”
CHICAGO-When on May 1st the Bruce Rauner administration unilaterally enacted new federal overtime rules for home healthcare workers as an excuse to cut services for people with disabilities, it violated the law.
That is the substance of an Unfair Labor Practices charge (attached) filed Thursday by SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union representing 24,000 state personal assistants.
About 9,000 people with disabilities are affected by the rules changes, which have thrown the system of care in disarray. Rauner has tried to use implementation of the new rules in negotiations in which he is attempting to strip wages, training and health insurance from caregivers.
Following is the statement of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President Terri Harkin:
“The heartless new Rauner overtime policy is a perversion of federal rules meant to ensure that workers are paid for their work and it has been every bit as bad as we feared. In only a few days, we have found that hundreds of people with disabilities who rely on care for their everyday needs have been placed in harm’s way by a policy that has nothing to do with saving taxpayer dollars OR preventing fraud, the governor’s all-of-a-sudden rationale. Rauner has used the federal policy in a bait-and-switch that will hurt seniors and people with disabilities, using them as pawns to take away wages, training and health insurance from the people who care for them.
“In unilaterally implementing the new cap and throwing the system of care in disarray, the Rauner administration has violated the law. But this is not just illegal policy: It hurts people with disabilities.”