January 23, 2009 – Nearly 1,000 SEIU members braved the elements and called on the Governor and a sleepy Capitol to wake up and treat our budget crisis with the urgency Californians deserve. Members spoke out about how payment delays caused by the lack of real budget solutions will hurt hundreds of thousands of California students, seniors, people with disabilities, and families in crisis in the coming months.
After a rally and press conference that drew most of the Sacramento television stations and a strong contingent of the Capitol press corps, members lobbied the offices of 70 Democrats in a targeted effort to communicate the urgency of solving the budget problem and insisted that real, new revenue be secured to pay for the programs California needs. SEIU lobbyists reported that legislative staff were abuzz about the energy and size of the SEIU lobby day, an event unprecedented at this time of year.
SEIU Local 6434 had more than 400 members attend, including Pauline Beck, a home care worker, who spoke out passionately on behalf of low-income seniors and people with disabilities who may be facing future delays with their SSI/SSP payments. Understanding firsthand as a home care worker how important these payments are to many IHSS recipients, Pauline put forth this challenge: “I am challenging Governor Schwarzenegger to Walk A Day in the shoes of those whose livelihoods are being hurt by not having a budget with real, new revenues!” Lobby visits and events in the Capitol and in districts are slated to continue as SEIU intensifies its campaign for real budget solutions.
January 14, 2009 – Sacramento, CA – Today more than 230 members of SEIU 6434 joined our brothers and sisters and others being impacted by proposed budget cuts in Sacramento at an event that was titled “The State of The People” to report to elected leaders, the media and the public what they wouldn’t hear in the Governor’s State of the State speech.
With a record number of Californians losing their jobs, homes and healthcare, Californians attending the event stated that more budget cuts are exactly the WRONG prescription for the state’s economic woes.
The event featured the personal stories of Californians and how the worsening economy, proposed budget cuts, along with the prior $10 billion in cuts will impact their lives. Among the featured speaker was our very own SEIU 6434 member, Faye Herald from Oakland (pictured above).
WASHINGTON, DC—The International Executive Board of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today voted overwhelmingly to adopt the recommendations of an outside hearing officer, based on a policy first established at the 2000 SEIU Convention eight years ago, to have home care and nursing home workers in three SEIU local unions in California unite into a single local union to create the nation’s largest and most powerful organization of long term care workers – 240,000 strong.
“The evolution of SEIU jurisdictional policy and practice since the 2000 SEIU Convention demonstrates a clear trend toward consolidating SEIU local unions on industrial and geographical lines,” wrote Leonard Page, former General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, in his report to the IEB. “By implementing its jurisdictional policy, SEIU has been able to create local unions of the size and resources to successfully mount the organizing, political and collective bargaining campaigns that have delivered for members…. My recommendation is that, for the present, California long term care members should have their own SEIU local union devoted exclusively to the needs of these workers.”
The Board vote affirms a broad SEIU policy set by the elected representatives of SEIU members at its Convention in 2000 and re-affirmed in 2004. In June 2008, elected member delegates to SEIU Convention debated the specific issue of jurisdiction for our California long term care members and also voted overwhelmingly to apply the policy favoring consolidating long term care workers in each state into the same local union.
Hearing Officer Page’s recommendations follow a participatory three-year process in California after other efforts failed to provide the coordination, cooperation and unity of effort California’s long term care workers need.
“The success of SEIU was built through a series of tough choices we have made as a union since 1996,” said SEIU President Andy Stern. “Those choices have created a powerful voice for members and good jobs in our country. Uniting of workers who do the same type of work has successfully transformed local unions that once competed into stronger and powerful forces for change in members’ lives throughout the United States and Canada, and won big victories for our members who do some of the toughest and most important jobs for our society.”
The Jurisdictional Process
SEIU’s union-wide reforms of jurisdiction have been taking place since 1996. In 2000, delegates to the SEIU International Convention adopted the New Strength Unity Plan and the Union launched an aggressive restructuring program, breaking up old political fiefdoms in favor of uniting workers by industry and geography. Among the new locals created by the reorganizations was United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), whose leaders actively supported the dissolution of Locals 399 and 250 in 2005 to create UHW, and which led to the appointment of Sal Rosselli as the President. Organizational reforms increased political strength and bargaining power for SEIU members in Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Illinois, Washington, and California.
The current process of determining long term care jurisdiction in California began in 2006 when long term care workers were reorganized in a manner that left them divided among three locals: United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), Local 521, and United Long Term Care Workers Local 6434. At the time, the IEB recommended that SEIU reexamine the question of whether representation of long term care workers by 3 local unions was working to the detriment of home care workers. After several years of failed voluntary efforts at working together, hearings were held in May and July 2008 on what could strengthen the power of long term care workers. Testimony was given by members, each of the locals and from the Long Term Care Division of SEIU Healthcare.
“This reorganization will make us one of the most powerful forces in California, with the strength to win at the bargaining table and demand meaningful budget reform in Sacramento,” said Christy Brooks, a UHW home care worker in Santa Rosa.
The Challenge in California
The decision to unite all long term care workers into one unified local couldn’t come at a more critical moment. With California‘s budget crisis and the sweeping cuts Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed to the IHSS home care program and other critical long term care funding, long term care workers in the state are facing cuts in hours for home care consumers and rollbacks of gains they have earned in pay back to minimum wage. Under the reorganization, California long term care workers will be among the most powerful political and economic forces in the state – positioned to fight draconian budget and wage cuts and to press for meaningful long term budget solutions in Sacramento.
“California can’t afford to keep cutting schools, healthcare, and other vital services,” said Michele Reed, an LA County home care worker and member of 6434. “We can no longer organize ourselves based on protecting old political turf. We need the strength that comes with unity.”
The Next Steps
The Union has charged Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina and Michael Holland, an attorney with experience implementing union reorganizations, to work with locals to draw up an implementation plan and timeline that makes sense for the workers. They will present recommendations to SEIU President Andy Stern within 30 days. No jurisdictional change will be implemented before that time.
“The IEB’s decision is based on honoring the decisions our members made in Puerto Rico last June and in conventions past. The principles of democracy are about respecting the will of the majority while protecting the voice of the minority. At SEIU, our leaders have the responsibility to follow the will of our members,” said Stern. “We know change is sometimes hard in the short run, but our record of success confirms members in long term care do better together.
“We now look forward to the enormous opportunities we have to make change that works for California and for this country. We need to solve the budget shortfalls facing our state and local governments. We need to make sure every man, woman and child has health care. We need workers to have a free choice in the job, we need meaningful economic recovery for families, and we need to bring hardworking taxpaying immigrants out of shadows to become citizens. Now is the time to get to work and change this country.”
With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today’s global economy.