Fresno homecare providers outraged at SEIU’s second failure to defend wages

NewsApril 29, 2009

100+ workers pack County Supervisors’ meeting to protest another round of cuts

Fresno, Calif.—Over a hundred Fresno homecare providers packed the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to oppose an agenda item that would reduce their wages and benefits to $9.50 an hour. But they weren’t just there to protest the wage cuts—they also pointed to the repeated failure of their union, SEIU, to support them in stopping the cuts.

“SEIU just failed to stop a different set of cuts last week,” said Flo Furlow, a homecare worker. “Now the county wants to cut our wages even more, and this time SEIU isn’t even going to take it to arbitration. How many times can we let this happen?”

Providers wages are paid by In-Home Supportive Services, a service that saves tax dollars by allowing people with long-term medical needs to receive care in their own homes rather than in more costly nursing homes. It is funded jointly by the County, the State, and the federal government.

Despite pleas from homecare providers and their consumers, Supervisors voted 3 to 2 to submit a “rate request” packet to the California Department of Social Services—an administrative step that would allow the cuts to take effect starting July 1.

When Fresno County first began seeking cuts in September, homecare workers and their elected union leaders successfully organized to stop the cuts from taking effect. That work ground to a halt in January, when national SEIU officials took over California’s healthcare union in order to force homecare workers into a separate union that would be run by SEIU staff from Washington, D.C. SEIU removed the rank-and-file leaders that Fresno homecare workers had elected to represent them.

Fresno homecare workers have petitioned the County for an election to quit SEIU and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers, an independent union formed by caregivers after SEIU’s hostile takeover. Providers say they’re excited for the chance to have a voice of their own again.

“Before SEIU took over, homecare workers stood strong and protected our contract against these cuts,” said Furlow, who was a member of the elected bargaining team that negotiated the contract in 2006. “Now SEIU is throwing it all away. We’re joining NUHW to take back our union and protect our families and our homecare consumers.”

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. NUHW is building a national movement of caregivers to hold healthcare corporations accountable to the public interest and win affordable, quality healthcare for all.