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District of Columbia – AFSCME Helps Kick off National Home Care Movement

Launching A Movement
Launching A Movement AFSCME | Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders and home care providers represented by AFSCME Council 67 participated in the Care Congress — the start of a national campaign to improve the lives of home care providers and their clients. (Photo by Luis Goméz)

Maryland home care providers represented by Council 67 joined the launch of Caring Across Generations, a national campaign to transform home care in America by protecting and improving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and making sure that families have the resources they need to provide for their disabled and elderly loved ones.

The campaign officially took wing in July at ‘the Care Congress,’ a one-day town hall meeting in Washington, DC, that brought together more than 700 caregivers — and recipients of their services — from across the country. AFSCME helped create the congress in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs with Justice, and other labor unions and organizations.

AFSCME has played a historic role in the representation of home care providers. Our California affiliate, UDW Homecare Providers Union (UDW/AFSCME), is the first known union founded exclusively to represent workers who provide these services. “We’ve built on that legacy as we’ve organized home care workers across the nation,” Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders said in his address to the congress. Approximately 125,000 home care providers nationwide have joined AFSCME, including 4,600 in Council 67.

Saunders pointed out that Maryland providers recently won a first contract that will help improve their working conditions and the critical services upon which the clients depend. In addition, the providers’ 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 Congress. Saunders noted in his remarks that she works more than 14 hours a day. “What gets her though the long hours is her love for her two elderly, disabled clients,” he said.

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 benefits. “The job that we do serving elderly people is very essential” and should be acknowledged, she added. “We ought to be heard.”

In addition to preserving and expanding Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, the goals of the Caring Across Generations movement include the creation of new funding streams to create 2 million new jobs in home care to meet the growing need and establish fair labor standards. It also seeks to improve care workers’ wages; provide access to health insurance and job training; ensure their right to organize; and provide pathways to citizenship for training and certification program participants.