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Union Watch – SEIU

By Stephen Tweed

We’ve been paying attention to the latest efforts by the Service Employees International Union to organize home care workers around the country. Here are some of the latest happenings:

February 11, 2009 – BARRIE, ONTARIO– SEIU and home care workers staged a rally in front of Barrie MPP Aileen Carroll’s office to highlight a province-wide home care strike that could leave thousands of people without the home care services they need.

Home care workers from the Barrie area say the travel time issue is one of the biggest concerns among home care workers. Driving from town to town is time consuming and means lost time.

February 11, 2009 – In a scene that will be commonplace after passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, labor leaders and home care aides joined Service Employee International Union President Andy Stern and Mark Heaney, CEO of Addus HealthCare, Inc. today to sign a renewed national agreement that will further improve home care for seniors and people with disabilities. The new contract now covers 10,000 Addus HealthCare, Inc. workers in 11 states — California, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Washington. SEIU IS the largest health care union in the country representing more than 1.1 million members in the field, including 400,000 home care workers.

“This renewal is very important to me. Since we established the initial agreement, we have all seen positive results,” said Alberta Walker, home care aide of nine years and a vice chair on the executive board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. “Thousands of home care workers have joined SEIU Healthcare as a result. We can lobby more diligently for better federal and state funding to improve the services for our consumers. We can retain and recruit the best home care aides in the industry with better wages and access to health care. And we can help Addus offer the kind of high-quality, in-home care that seniors want,” said Walker.

January 27, 2009 – Caritas Christi Health Care said it has reached a wide-ranging agreement with Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, becoming the first of the region’s teaching-hospital organizations to embrace the union’s organizing strategy.
For Caritas Christi, a chain of six hospitals owned by the Archdiocese of Boston, the accord guarantees a period of peaceful labor relations. In turn, SEIU receives a promise that management will not interfere with its organizing efforts, making it easier to unionize many of Caritas Christi’s 13,000 Massachusetts employees.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who supported SEIU in its successful effort to unionize home health workers last year, said in a statement, “Caregivers perform one of the most critical roles in helping the sick, but their services are some of the most undervalued. Through this commitment between Caritas Christi and 1199SEIU, everyone involved in delivering quality healthcare to the people of Boston will benefit.”

January 26, 2009 – Faced with takeover by the international union as early as Tuesday, leaders at Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West called on the international to let workers decide who will represent them.
SEIU officials in Washington, D.C., issued an ultimatum to UHW on Thursday: Agree to support the transfer of 65,000 nursing home and home care workers out of UHW or face immediate takeover and the expulsion of the local leadership.

January 13, 2009 – The Supreme Court yesterday voted unanimously to consider the lawsuit filed by SEIU Healthcare 775NW charging that Governor Gregoire violated state law by failing to fund the home care worker union contract. The Court will hear the case on an expedited schedule, with a decision likely in time to impact the legislative budget process.

November 28, 2998 – The Service Employees International Union Local 1199 is expected to say today it has successfully negotiated a contract for 25,000 Massachusetts home care workers, a year after the powerful local organized the workers.
The vote, to be disclosed this morning at an event in Brighton with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, would increase workers’ wages from $10.84 to $12.48 an hour over three years, and provide healthcare benefits in the second year of the contract. SEIU said last year’s organizing victory was the largest union election ever in New England.
November 13, 2008 – Sudbury, Ontario, Canada area home caregivers employed by Comcare Health Services voted overwhelmingly on November 10 to form a union, becoming members of SEIU Local 1 Canada. The move comes in response to years of not being adequately compensated for their work. The home care workers said they had to take action to protect themselves and their jobs.

October 6, 2008 – Nearly 5,000 members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana employed by Help At Home (HAH) will vote on a historic new contract that that will pave the way for thousands more Help At Home workers across the country to join the union. The groundbreaking agreement marks the second home care contract in our union’s history that provides workers the right to organize nationally. The first such agreement was reached by SEIU with Addus HealthCare, Inc., in 2005.

If you know of other incidents of SEIU organizing home care, please add to the comments section below.

February 1, 2009 – In a related note, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Missouri Home Care Union are seeking sponsors in the Missouri Legislature to pass the “Missouri Home Care Bill of Rights” which would make it easier to unionize home care workers and personal care attendants in the state.

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