Dear Brother or Sister:
We are writing because of our shared interest in the challenge of organizing and representing home-based workers.
As labor activists, direct care providers, or academic researchers, we have all been involved in aiding or studying organizing work among publicly-funded personal care attendants and child care providers, plus other types of domestic workers.
Largely female, people of color, and very often foreign born, these workers have been the largest single source of new union members — more than 500,000 in the last ten years.
We believe that the work done by SEIU, AFSCME, AFT, CWA, UAW, and OPEIU to create new bargaining units among direct care workers — often previously classified as “independent contractors” — strengthens ongoing efforts by the National Domestic Workers Alliance to win new legal rights and protections for privately-employed home-based workers as well.
In recent months, however, adequate funding for home health services in California and other states has been threatened by local budget cuts. Changes in Medicare reimbursement practices — as part of President Obama’s “health care reform” — may also affect these programs adversely. Inter-union competition for home-based workers has intensified in places like Fresno County, California, where the outcome of a vote involving 10,000 home care workers last June is still being contested. In Illinois, 3,000 Illinois workers who provide in-home care for the severely disabled recently voted to reject representation, despite having a choice between two unions on the ballot.
That’s why we think this is a particularly good time to step back and assess our collective efforts to create a “voice-at-work” for home-based workers, while improving the conditions of domestic labor generally. During the weekend of April 23-25, at the Labor Notes conference in Dearborn, Michigan, there will be a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges facing unions and workers centers as they try to build durable, effective, and member-driven organizations among men and women employed in such “non-traditional” workplaces.
We hope you will join us in shaping the agenda for this meeting, helping to publicize it, and participating, if you can. On a rare cross-union basis, we will be exchanging information about home-based worker organizing and bargaining, rank-and-file leadership development, other job-related training programs, plus ongoing legislative/political campaigns for union recognition and program funding. We hope to learn from each other’s union building successes and setbacks, while identifying “best practices” that might be replicated more widely.
To make suggestions for additional content or speakers at our planned home-based worker panel/workshop at the Labor Notes conference, please contact Steve Early at Lsupport@aol.comor 617-930-7327.
You can register now for the overall April 23-25 conference, at <www.labornotes.org>.
Please share this invitation with union co-workers or academic colleagues in California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, or any of the other states where home-based worker organizing has contributed so much to union membership growth in recent years.
Steve Early, Labor Notes Policy Committee member and former organizer, CWA District 1
Ken McNamara, president of CWA Local 1037, Newark, New Jersey
Ken Allen, Executive Director, AFSCME District Council 75, Portland, Oregon
Priscilla Gonzalez, Director, Domestic Workers United, New York City
Barri Boone, home health care aide and member of SEIU Local 6434, Santa Cruz, California
John Vellardita, organizer, National Union of Healthcare Workers, Oakland, California.
Jennifer Klein, Professor of History, Yale University, and co-author, with Eileen Boris, of Caring For America: How Home Healthcare Workers Became the New Face of Labor
Dana Simon, organizer, UNITE HERE Local 26, Boston, Mass. and former home-care organizer and negotiator for United Healthcare Workers-West/SEIU.
Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN and chief organizer, ULU Local 100.
Clare Stacey, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Kent State University