by Clyde Weiss | July 13, 2011
LAUNCHING A MOVEMENT – AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders and home care providers represented by AFSCME Council 67 participated in The Care Congress on July 12. The Congress launched a national campaign to improve the lives of home care providers and their clients. (Photo by Luis Gomez)
Home care providers represented by AFSCME Council 67 in Maryland, and AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders, helped launch ‘Caring Across Generations,’ a national campaign to improve the future of long-term care in America.
The campaign was officially launched July 12 at The Care Congress, a one-day “town hall” meeting in Washington, DC, which brought together more than 700 caregivers – and recipients of their services – from across the country.
AFSCME has a historic role representing home care providers. The union’s California affiliate, UDW Homecare Providers Union (UDW/AFSCME), is the first known union founded exclusively to represent home care workers. “We’ve built on that legacy as we’ve organized home care workers across the nation,” Saunders said in his address at the Congress.
Today, AFSCME represents approximately125,000 home care providers nationwide, including 4,600 independent providers represented by AFSCME Council 67 in Maryland.
At The Care Congress, Saunders noted that Maryland home care providers recently won a first contract that will help improve the conditions of their work and the critical services that they provide. In addition, their right to join a union and bargain collectively was recently codified into law.
Veronica Banks of Rockville, Md., was one of several AFSCME-represented providers at The Care Congress. Saunders told those in attendance that Banks works more than 14 hours a day and that “what gets her though the long hours is her love for her two elderly, disabled clients.”
In an interview later, Banks said she joined AFSCME to “help get the message across for the many who do not talk for themselves” about the providers’ low wages and lack of any benefits. “The job that we do serving elderly people is very essential” and should be acknowledged, she added. “We ought to be heard.”
Among the goals of the ‘Caring Across Generations’ movement is passage of the Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act of 2011, introduced in June by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) and U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA). The bill would ensure that home care providers have the same overtime and minimum wage protections available to other workers. It also would “promote a stable and competent direct care workforce” through a monitoring program.
Learn more about home care providers here.