On Saturday, January 21st, millions of women, men, and children in hundreds of cities around the world stood together in unity as part of the Women’s March on Washington. In California, it is estimated that 880,000 or 1 in every 45 residents attended a local march in dozens of cities across the state.
For UDW members, the reasons to march were as diverse as the nearly 98,000 IHSS providers our union represents, but a sense of urgency and a passion to fight for our rights united us all. We were among the huge crowds of people standing up for the environment, equal rights for women and people of color, immigrant rights, the rights of people with disabilities, and LGBTQ rights, home care, and our health care – rights that millions feel are under attack.
“I marched because women should be able to make decisions about our bodies,” said UDW member Luz Cedeno from Orange County. “And I marched because taking away the Affordable Care Act without a plan, and potentially cutting Medicaid would be harmful.”
The day before the march, an executive order was signed to push federal agencies to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare. Changes to the ACA that don’t include a plan to improve and replace it could be particularly detrimental to UDW caregivers and our families, because an estimated 75,000 of us are now eligible for free or lower cost health insurance because of it.
“I marched because everything that many before us fought and even died for is at risk of being undone,” said UDW Vice President Astrid Zuniga who spoke at the Women’s March in Modesto.
As a union, we have been fighters for many social justice causes. We do this work because none of us are only caregivers. We are women, men, young people, older adults, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, people with disabilities, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, low-wage workers, the middle class, formerly incarcerated people, and so much more. We don’t let these differences divide us, instead we meet at the intersection of all of these identities and fight together for justice for us all.
“It was so amazing and liberating to stand up for the rights of our clients and for home care,” said Kym Icke, a UDW member from San Diego County. “By marching, we told our elected leaders that we are here and we are important.”
“I marched to ensure our rights aren’t violated,” echoed UDW member Camilla Bradford from Riverside County. “Our health. Our choice. Our bodies. LGBT rights. Everything. We must unite, stand together, and fight. We can’t put women back 300 years.”
Desmond Prescott, also from Riverside County, was one of the many men who marched. “I marched to support my fellow caregivers, and celebrate the contribution these women make to our society.”
No matter your reason for marching or not marching, it was a historic day that our country and the world will remember for decades to come. “I took my granddaughter with me,” said Cassandra Sambrano, a UDW member who attended the march in Riverside. “She’s eight years old, and I took her because I wanted her to be part of history.”
We want this beautiful moment of solidarity to spark a movement that is not fleeting, but instead creates a ripple effect that continues to move people to action on issues facing our families and communities. Many UDW caregivers have been social justice activists for years, but some of us are new and need help figuring out what to do next. Some suggestions include:
Let’s keep moving forward, together!
UDW Executive Director Doug Moore released the following statement in response to the massacre of 49 people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida:
Our nation is reeling after experiencing the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. 49 of our brothers, sisters, and friends were murdered at the hands of a man fueled by fear and hate.
The majority of the dead are young queer and trans Latinos, and the loss of these precious lives are felt deeply within our various communities. UDW is made up of nearly 94,000 in-home care providers who span all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations. And though we’d like to believe otherwise, we know that this kind of tragedy could have just as easily happened here in California.
We are devastated, but we are also angry. Angry that we live in a world that breeds so much hate, that we have been taught to fear our differences instead of embracing and celebrating them. Angry that some have used this tragedy as an excuse to further marginalize Muslims and spread Islamophobia.
But we are also determined – determined not to let these souls die in vain. Determined to fight back against fear and hatred, to work together to build a world where all of our loved ones and neighbors – queer, trans, Latino, Muslim, and beyond – are safe from bigotry and violence. Together we are determined to get to the root cause of violence against marginalized people, and examine the ways in which we ourselves are complicit in that violence and make real change.
And we are also thankful. Thankful to the first responders and health care providers who saved lives and continue to care for those injured in the shooting. Thankful to our communities who will help us heal from this horrific act of violence. Thankful that we have each other’s backs in the fight for justice and equality for all.
Those who stand for hate and fear hope that this incident will further divide our communities, pitting marginalized groups against each other. Now is the time for us to come together and say enough is enough. Now is the time to show them what true solidarity looks like.
United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 is a homecare union made up of nearly 94,000 in-home caregivers across the state of California. UDW caregivers provide care through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS), which allows hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities to stay safe and healthy at home.