Election Day 2016 has come and gone, a new president is in the White House, and the U.S. Congress is now in session. No matter how you voted in November, one thing is certain: the decisions of the new administration and Congress will impact IHSS caregivers and recipients. And if what we’ve seen so far is any indication, we’re in for quite a fight.
“Medicaid pays for 55% of all IHSS funding,” said UDW caregiver Susana Saldana of Merced County. If Obamacare is repealed, Medicaid could be nest on the chopping block.”
“We need to stand together to show that we’re united, that we’ll fight to protect our children, people with disabilities, and seniors.”
Many UDW members share Susana’s concerns, but we also know that we have a long history of fighting back against threats to IHSS and our clients.
UDW caregivers in action
Back in 2009, when former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to eliminate the IHSS program altogether, UDW caregivers stopped him. Three years later, when Governor Jerry Brown tried to cut the IHSS program by 20%, we stopped him, too. And we continue to fight back against cuts and other threats to IHSS every time the state throws them at us. (click here for a timeline of our victories!)
In 2015, after the governor went back on his promise to pay us overtime, we fought back and won. Last year, for the first time in history, IHSS providers finally began receiving the overtime pay that most working Americans have enjoyed since 1938.
UDW caregivers do a vital and selfless job and have always stood strong against attacks on home care and our clients. We advocate for each other, for the health and dignity of seniors and people with disabilities, and together we have had a direct role in each and every one of our victories. The threats we face in 2017 will be no different.
This year, we’re already fighting back against an attempt by Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Because of the ACA, an estimated 75,000 UDW caregivers are now eligible for free and affordable health coverage.
“The ACA is important,” said Betsy Herrera, an IHSS provider from Stanislaus County who takes care of her mother Margarita. “Both my mom and I depend on it. There is no way we would be able to get the medical care we need without it. And without Medicaid, I’d be out of a job.”
Betsy is right, and she echoes the worries of many other IHSS providers as well. Attacks on the ACA are an attack on our health care, but an attack on Medicaid – which House Speaker Paul Ryan has spoken about for years – is a direct attack on IHSS.
Medicaid, a federal program, provides 55% of the funding for the IHSS program. That means if Medicaid is cut, changed, or eliminated, IHSS recipients and providers will feel it.
But not all of the threats we face in 2017 will come from the new administration or Congress.
An out-of-state, corporate billionaire-backed, anti-home care organization known as the Freedom Foundation began targeting IHSS providers last year. The Freedom Foundation says they want to help home care providers save money by trying to convince us to leave our union, but what they don’t say is that the victories we have won threaten their agenda.
Freedom Foundation claims they understand IHSS workers and our clients, but they don’t. One of their executives called caregivers a bunch of “babysitters.”
“Groups like that don’t care about us or our clients, they care about power,” said UDW caregiver Sharon Duchessi of Placer County.
The Freedom Foundation tells union members to give themselves a raise and stop paying union dues.
“They are telling providers that the union doesn’t do anything for us,” said caregiver Julie Otero of Kern County, “but who is there when our hours are taken away? ‘Giving ourselves a raise’ means not having back up and no one to fight for us – leaving UDW means we stand alone, but in unity we have strength.”
Fight, Protect, Win!
UDW caregivers will face some tough challenges in 2017, and the road ahead of us will not always be easy. However, if we keep our goals of strengthening and protecting IHSS in sight, and we work together, we can win!
“Together we stand, divided we fall,” said LaTrese Lofton, who provides care for her daughter Sha’Quonna in Riverside County. “This is the time for us to fight as hard as we’ve ever fought before.”
So get ready, UDW caregivers. Let’s make 2017 our best year yet.
For more information about getting involved and joining the fight to protect home care, call your local office or visit www.udwa.org.
UDW caregivers stood alongside thousands of public service workers to declare we will NEVER QUIT at AFSCME’s 42nd International Convention last week in Las Vegas. “It truly was a learning experience,” said Susana Saldana, an IHSS provider for her son and first time convention delegate from Merced County. “I enjoyed meeting people from all over the country and learning best practices from fellow union members.”
UDW is a California affiliate of the national union AFSCME, and including UDW’s over 94,000 home care providers, AFSCME represents 1.6 million workers around the country. AFSCME members are public servants who work as nurses, 911 dispatchers, law enforcement officers, child care providers, sanitation workers, home care providers, and more. What we have in common is a commitment to protecting public programs like IHSS, and to winning social and economic justice for working families.
At the same time, membership in a powerful national union helps us protect IHSS. While we fight back against threats to the program here in California, AFSCME is able to help us protect home care in Washington D.C., where many decisions are made that impact funding for IHSS.
Every two years, UDW members serve as delegates to AFSCME’s International Convention. At convention, we vote in support or opposition to resolutions that set the union’s agenda and priorities.
This year, we stood in favor of a resolution to demand stronger long term care services and supports for Americans who rely on services like in-home care. And we gave strong support to resolutions demanding an increase in the minimum wage. “No one who works full-time should have to go home and struggle to provide for their families,” said UDW delegate and IHSS provider LaTanya Cline from San Diego County, in regards to the resolution.
UDW caregiver Nicanora Montenegro, an IHSS provider from San Diego, asked convention delegates to stand in support of a resolution on protecting the right to vote. “Our country has changed, but we have a long way to go,” said Nicanora. “Our vote is our voice…voting rights of people of color in particular must be protected and expanded.”
Many of us addressed the entire delegation to talk about our latest victories here in California. Placer County Chair William Reed spoke about our recent overtime pay win. “This victory was only possible because we stood together and we did not quit,” said William. “And we will keep fighting until home care workers all over the country have the same rights and benefits as all workers.”
Convention is also the time that we elect the leaders who will represent UDW as AFSCME International Vice Presidents. This year, the delegation reelected UDW Executive Director Doug Moore and Johanna Hester to these positions. During the nomination process, we thanked Doug and Johanna for their leadership through some of our union’s biggest fights, including ending cuts to the IHSS program and growing our union despite threats like the Harris vs. Quinn Supreme Court decision.
But convention wasn’t only about resolutions and elections, we also took action! Thousands of us marched in solidarity with workers who are trying to form a union at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Despite winning their union election in December, Trump International has refused to begin contract negotiations and has fired and intimidated workers who are union supporters. After our march in the hot Las Vegas sun, it was announced that a settlement had been reached to pay two workers $11,200 in lost wages.
“This was epic,” said San Diego IHSS provider and first time convention delegate Noreen Woods. “To see solidarity at its finest was awesome. Thousands of AFSCME brothers and sisters showed up to support the hotel workers, and hearing that a settlement was reached showed me that we are being heard. We can’t stop fighting. Yesterday was a show of the power we’ve built through our union.”
For more photos from the AFSCME 2016 convention, click here.