Today (Thursday, April 24, 2014) marks the 99th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. On April 24, 1915, Ottoman soldiers banished and arrested Armenian leaders and figureheads, and undertook the first genocide of the 20th Century. Having made mass organized resistance impossible, the Ottoman Empire went on to slaughter 1.5 million men, women, and children, displacing the 500,000 surviving Armenians from land occupied by their ancestors for some 2,500 years. The New York Times published 145 articles on the Armenian genocide in 1915. President Theodore Roosevelt, who by the time of the genocide had been out of office for 6 years, called it, “the greatest crime.” And Sunday Schools all across the US raised money to bring relief to the “starving Armenians.”
SEIU ULTCW commemorates this day of reflection and remembrance annually. This year, Executive Board Representative, Hripsime Tamazyan, and Member Leaders, Maro Amiryan, Gayane Kharibyan, Kristina Hovanissyan, and Angela Aladadyan, led efforts to organize dozens of homecare and nursing home caregivers, from all backgrounds, to participate in both the 10 AM, “Armenian Genocide Commemoration March,” held in Hollywood’s Little Armenia community, and the 1:30 PM, “99th Annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration,” held at the Montebello Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument.
ULTCW represents over 16,000 Armenian-American long-term caregivers throughout the state of California, many of whom have attended ceremonies and marches to remember the lives that were lost, and to make sure the world never forgets the atrocity that took place almost a century ago. In addition to marching in solidarity with all those directly affected by the genocide, ULTCW Members and Staff stand in solidarity with those who demand accountability from Turkish authorities. Despite the fact that the perpetrators of these unforgivable crimes are long gone, Turkey’s national government continues to deny the genocide took place.
It is only through remembering past atrocities that we are able to work toward their prevention. The Armenian Genocide took place several decades before Adolf Hilter ordered the extermination of 12 million people, including 6 million Jews. Yet, Hitler was well aware of the crimes committed by the Ottomans. During World War II, as if to justify his own atrocities Hitler stated, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
This year’s 99th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be marked by thousands upon thousands of Armenian-Americans, as well as, friends and supporters. An invitation has been extended for everyone in the Greater Los Angeles Area to gather at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2014, at the Armenian Genocide Monument, in Montebello, for a special program. Elected officials, scholars, students, business people, families, and community members, form part of an important dialogue regarding the genocide, and work to increase public awareness, so that the lives of the men, women, and children that were lost, will never be forgotten.
Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Women belong to smaller immediate families than they did a generation ago. Women are succeeding as business owners and entrepreneurs. Women are committing fewer crimes than men, and therefore facing fewer criminal consequences, and experiencing lower recidivism rates. And most importantly, women are working and going to school.
Yet, one in three American women, live in poverty or at its brink. If you’ve seen Maria Shriver or the Shriver Report, in the news lately, you’re already familiar with this fact. If you watched the HBO Documentary Film, Paycheck To Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, (streaming for free online) you’ve also learned that 28 million children depend on these women for their education, shelter, food, clothing, and overall wellbeing. Ms. Gilbert works in a nursing home. She belongs to a community of caregivers populated by 65.7 million people—one in three Americans. As the head of her household, her three kids count on what she takes home, working as many as eight days in a row, for $9.49 an hour. After the bills get paid, it ain’t much.
We’re used to this kind of narrative. It doesn’t impact us in any way to hear about a young woman who can barely get by. In fact, it often evokes some rather unsettling stereotypes. Sadly, this narrative, these stereotypes, and all accompanying partisan talking points, are as predictable as they are wrong.
In California, everything is supposed to be coming up roses. Our budget is running a nearly $5 billion surplus. We’ve added over 1.23 million new jobs since 2010. And the value of California homes is steadily increasing. Yet, the Golden State boasts the highest rate of impoverished people in the nation. 4 million Californians rely on public assistance from CalFresh, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) just to put food on the table. 77% of cash assistance and welfare-to-work services for low-income families (CalWORKS) resources go to meet the needs of children. And despite the state budget surplus, and the fact that 20% of California’s seniors live below the poverty line, regulated programs that allow the elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled to live outside of costly nursing home facilities, such as in-home support services, (IHSS) are always on the chopping block. Unsurprisingly, nearly 9 out of 10 IHSS caregivers are women.
California Governor Jerry Brown wants to move forward with a 7% cut to IHSS funding, and has proposed capping the amount of hours for which IHSS workers can receive pay. This last move is an effort to avoid extending IHSS caregivers the overtime and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections President Obama recently corrected this historical wrong by directing the Department of Labor to extend these protections to homecare providers nationwide. The current proposal could lead to the downgrading and disruption of care for seniors battling Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as children and adults managing all levels of autism. It also means IHSS caregivers, who’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, swimming against the current of pay equity that continues to erode the American middleclass, will get pulled into the undertow of poverty and drown.
These proposed cuts and caps do not benefit Cherilyn, her infirmed family member for whom she provides care, or her two children—one of whom remains hospitalized, after being senselessly struck by a stray bullet. The proposals further demoralize Lorijon, the disabled brother for whom she provides care, and her partner, recently diagnosed with cancer. Sheila will slip further into despair even after she sold her home in Arkansas and moved her son and husband to a studio apartment in California, all so she could care for her mother as her health began to rapidly deteriorate. And they turn Guillermina’s life upside down, as a social worker has determined that she must provide 258-hours’ worth of IHSS care each month to her son with low-functioning autism and multiple developmental and physiological diagnoses. The proposed cuts and caps would strip away nearly 40% of her income, and Guillermina would be forced to endanger her son’s wellbeing by trusting his care to a stranger, and/or accept a life of squalor.
You see, in California, and across the country, the proverbial rub lies at the intersection of earnings and expenditures: It’s not just that women are paid $.77 for every dollar earned by a man. It’s that women are (a) disproportionately represented in low paying jobs that come without fulltime hours guarantees, sick days, benefits packages, or even steady schedules that allows them to receive pay on a regular basis for all of the hours they’ve actually worked. And (b) women are forced to stretch their paychecks to cover the needs of their kids, their parents, and in many cases, their partners, as well.
By 2050 there will be 89 million Americans who are 65 and older. One third will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Millions more will have a variety of challenges related to aging and/or adult diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Before the end of the decade there will be a 70% increase in the demand for homecare. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for young workers that surged during the Great Recession, remains above 16%nationwide.
It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
The costs of higher education are breaking records. And student loan debt is at an all-time high—now exceeding $1 trillion, eclipsing even credit card debt. But so is the demand for caregivers. If millennial job seekers, including college students and recent graduates, were compensated fairly for homecare, supply could meet demand, and the costs of education and debt load could become more bearable. There is no reason to believe that caregiving and the other professions disproportionately populated by women will achieve gender balance in the coming years. But there is every reason to believe that increasing the pay of workers in these professions benefit us all. Women, and those for whom they care, including children and seniors, could escape poverty. Paying them middleclass salaries means their purchases of goods and services, investments in education, and entrepreneurial activities can create new jobs.
Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Yet whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, the vast expanse between the 1% and the rest of us, is felt most acutely along gender lines. Two thirds of working women are found in 54occupations. In order to meet the challenges posed by the costs of childcare, eldercare, and special needs care, and the increases in the costs of housing, higher education, and healthcare, these occupations need to pay life-sustaining wages.
To do anything else is to condemn women their children to live as second class citizens because of their socioeconomic status, and promote the decimation of the American Dream until it goes extinct.
Laphonza Butler is President of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, President of SEIU California State Counci, and Vice President of SEIU International
Deputy Policy Director – Sacramento
Purpose: The Deputy Director of Public Policy assists the Director of Public Policy in planning, developing, and implementing the local’s public policy positions.
Duties & Responsibilities: (Any one position may not include all of the specific duties and responsibilities listed. Examples provide a general summary of the work required and should not be treated as a total and complete list of expected duties to be performed by employees in the classification.)
Work with Director of Public Policy to direct and/or prepare public policy reports for release in legislative campaigns and other public forums.
Graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with a bachelors degree, masters degree preferred, in public administration, labor relations or political science and at least three (5) years of supervisory experience and (5) years of work related experience in policy analysis including issues development in a political context or a combination of education and experience that would provide for the following knowledge, skills and abilities:
The Deputy Policy Director is expected to embrace, promote and demonstrate the organizations’ core values – Excellence, Diversity, Accountability, Transparency, Empowerment–, which include but are not limited to:
Ensure outstanding representation of the organization to internal and external allies and constituents.
Work is generally performed in an office setting. Long and extended hours and travel may be required.
Scope and Nature of Supervision:
The Deputy Policy Director reports directly to the Policy Director.
To Apply: Send resume and cover letter to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Vanessa Peña, ULTCW Member, In-Home Supportive Services Caregiver
My brother, Eliobardo was born with a developmental disorder impairing his cognitive and motor functions. He is now an adult, but still cannot bathe himself, shave, cut his nails, brush his teeth, put on his clothes, tie his shoes, or use the restroom without assistance. Even chewing his food properly requires supervision.
None of this proves as challenging as Eliobardo’s autism. My brother is a loving and deeply feeling human being, who is cannot communicate with the vast majority of the world. He cannot indicate his choices or interact with strangers. He recognizes me as his caregiver, and responds to only the members of our family with whom he has consistent contact. Knowing my brother’s health and well being would be placed at risk in the hands of a stranger, I made the choice to stay home, instead of going to college. It is a choice I would make again today, as I know that without me, my brother would most likely end up in a convalescent home, unhappy and unsafe.
IHSS compensates me for 18 hours per week. But the hours I dedicate to my brother’s care far exceeds that total. In reality, I care for my brother 18 hours per day, seven days a week. What I earn as an IHSS caregiver each month doesn’t even cover the cost of a weekend visit to Disneyland, which is ironic because throughout my brother’s life Disney movies, and the promise of a Disneyland visit, have consistently improved his well being by bringing him a sense of calm, encouragement, and the promise of joy.
Governor Jerry Brown is proposing to cap the amount of hours for which IHSS caregivers can get paid, and wants to cut the IHSS program by 7% in this year’s state budget, despite the fact that California is running a surplus that is expected to top $10 billion by 2017.
I would like to see the Governor do what I do for my brother, and make ends meet on what I get paid.
He wouldn’t last a week, much less survive month after month, year after year.
And he would definitely never try to pull the rug out from under caregivers and people who need IHSS care to stay in their homes, ever again!
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my choice to stay with Eliobardo as his caregiver. My brother means the world to me, and his overall happiness, health, and well being are my top priority. Eliobardo’s needs are more important than my wants. He needs to be looked after by someone who loves him unconditionally, otherwise he will shut down and live without joy. And he needs to be cared for by someone he trusts, otherwise his continuity of care will be interrupted, his stress-level and physical tension will escalate, and his health and well being will decline.
I urge everyone to please sign this petition asking the legislature to reject Governor Brown’s proposal to cap IHSS caregiver hours, and move forward with plans funding for this invaluable home care program: