Fighting back against threats to home care in 2017 and beyond

February 2, 2017

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 If Obamacare is repealed, Medicaid could be nest on the chopping block.”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

Betsy Herrera takes care of her mother in their home. She also brings her with her to rallies and lobby visits at the Capitol so that they can fight for IHSS together.

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.

What’s next

UDW caregiver Julie Otero speaks out at a rally to protect the Affordable Care Act in Bakersfield, CA.

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!

LaTrese Lofton fights to protect IHSS for clients like her daughter Sha’Quonna, who lives with Angelman syndrome.

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.

 

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