California Home Care Workers Win Recognition

February 02, 2011

Humboldt County home care workers, CUHW staff and county officials verifying submitted support cards.
Humboldt County home care workers, CUHW staff and county officials verifying submitted support cards. (Photo credit: Gail Ennis)

More than 1,240 home care workers in Northwest California’s Humboldt County are celebrating their “Recognition Election” after the county’s personnel department declared recently that they received more than the required 625 support cards.

These caregivers have fought for recognition twice before. But the newly formed California United Homecare Workers (CUHW) Local 4034 – in its first opportunity to organize these workers – succeeded in collecting nearly 900 cards in fewer than 30 days.

CUHW, a joint affiliation between AFSCME and SEIU, is California’s newest union representing more than 15,000 home care workers in 25 counties. An estimated 200,000 home care workers in California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) system provide care to 230,000 consumers.

“Humboldt County is the largest remaining unrecognized county in California,” notes CUHW Exec. Director Loretta Stevens. “With this monumental achievement, CUHW can now negotiate a first contract with the county’s IHSS administrators.”

The election victory was especially significant for the home care providers who were determined to win on their third try. “It’s been an uphill battle getting to this point,” says Shelley McCuen of Arcata, Calif., a caregiver for more than 20 years. “But we finally did it with the tireless efforts of our member organizers and supporters from various advocacy and community groups. With our strong message of hope, they were relentless in making hundreds of house visits and follow-up phone calls.”

Laura Reyes, president of UDW Homecare Providers Union (UDW/AFSCME) and also an International vice president, was among the campaign volunteers who knocked on doors for four weeks. “We’re delighted that our sisters and brothers at CUHW are now able to move forward and obtain an agreement that will help improve their lives and the quality of care they provide,” she says.

Adds Doug Moore, UDW executive director and International vice president, “We will continue to work closely with CUHW. The strong partnership forged between us, particularly in the area of information technology, will ensure that we will be a powerful voice for our members.”

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