Re: Home-Care Workers: Unions fight for a living wage FWD

Judy Olsen (
Sat, 06 Mar 1999 14:37:44 -0800

Being a Home Care Community Aide was the only job I could find when I was homeless.  I did it for one year, at about $1.00 above minimum wage,
because it was Union.  Because of the low pay, I had to have a roommate until I found a really cheap room (bathroom down the hall and my cats
were welcome). Eventually I found a higher paid Union job, but if I wasn't active in my Union as a Home Care Community Aide, I would never have
found it.
Judy O

Tom Boland wrote:

> Home-care is one of the few kinds of work sometimes available to homeless
> and poor people with limited connections, training and work histories.  So,
> I forward the related article below for your review and comments:
> Los Angeles Times
> Thursday, March 4, 1999
> Unions Fight to Lift Pay for LAX Workers
> Labor: Despite a city ordinance, many are still denied a 'living wage.'
> Organizers are trying to change that.
> By NANCY CLEELAND, Times Staff Writer
> Fresh from success in their decade-long fight to represent 74,000 county
> home-care workers, Los Angeles labor leaders are hunkering down for what
> promises to be another long and hard-fought campaign, this time to sign up
> thousands of low-wage workers at Los Angeles International Airport.
> The Respect at LAX campaign, spearheaded by two aggressive and fast-
> growing unions with help from community and religious leaders, and partially
> bankrolled by the AFL-CIO, aims to increase pay for about 8,000 security
> workers, food handlers, janitors and parking lot attendants who now earn
> below the city-sanctioned "living wage" of $7.39 an hour plus benefits.
> Yet after nearly a year of effort and only a few modest victories, the
> campaign has run into stiff resistance from several employers and is moving
> slowly in negotiations with others. Only about 1,000 janitors and food
> concession workers, all of whom were already unionized, have received raises
> so far.
> In an effort to jump-start those negotiations, and to underscore the
> national significance of the campaign, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will
> meet with security and food concession workers at the airport Friday morning
> before leading a rally near the Airport Commission office.
> If anyone understands the frustrations of slow-moving union drives, it
> is Sweeney. As president of the Service Employees International Union in the
> late 1980s, he was instrumental in launching the campaign for home-care
> workers, who care for homebound elderly and disabled clients.
> The unionization of home-care workers under SEIU, achieved just last
> week, required county and state legislation and pulled in supporters from
> outside the labor movement with its message of economic justice.
> It also took years of patient footwork. "That campaign is an indication
> of how organizing is not easy and how we're in this for the long term,"
> Sweeney said Wednesday from his office in Washington. "The changes that
> we're making now are really investments for the future. And you're seeing
> that at the airport. It's another example of a major center of organization."
> Since taking the helm of the umbrella AFL-CIO, Sweeney has pushed
> unions to devote more resources to organization drives, to reach out to
> women, ethnic minorities and immigrants, to network with other community
> groups and to capitalize on political victories they may have had a hand in.
> As a start, the AFL-CIO itself pledged a third of its budget--about $30
> million a year--to organizing.
> Few regions have taken Sweeney's message to heart as enthusiastically
> as Los Angeles, where the County Federation of Labor--which itself is
> spending about $500,000 a year on organizing--estimates unions now employ
> about 250 professional field organizers.
> A cornerstone of the efforts here is the airport campaign. In many
> ways, Respect at LAX mirrors the home-care drive. Focused on low-wage
> service workers, primarily Latino immigrants and African Americans, it has
> attracted a broad range of supporters, including public officials and
> religious leaders.  And one of the unions leading the drive is SEIU; the
> other is the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union.
> The effort also has built on legislation, in this case a city ordinance
> that set a "living wage" for employees of companies with city contracts or
> licenses. That wage is now set at $7.39 an hour plus benefits. The Los
> Angeles City Council in November explicitly included airport leases in the
> living wage requirement, and two weeks ago, the Airport Commission
> officially adopted it.
> And yet about 8,000 workers still earn less than the living wage, said
> Vivian Rothstein, coordinator for the Respect for LAX campaign. "I think
> people heard about the ordinance and thought that was it. It was settled,"
> she said. "But we still have a lot of work ahead of us."
> Workers do not automatically gain the higher wage under the ordinance.
> Rather, it takes effect as leases and contracts come up for renewal. Some
> contracts, such as one covering workers in the Delta terminal, are not set
> to be renegotiated until 2025, said Rothstein.
> In what has been the most contentious fight to date, about 800
> pre-board screeners--security workers who check baggage for weapons--have
> asked to join the SEIU but have encountered resistance from Argenbright
> Inc., their Atlanta- based employer. The workers are now paid the $5.75 per
> hour minimum wage, with no benefits, sick days or vacation days. Sweeney is
> scheduled to meet with Argenbright workers before the rally.
> They are just the sort of potential union members the national labor
> movement has been targeting.
> "What we see on a national level seems to be telescoped in Los Angeles,
> where we have the capacity and the political will to do it, and a strategy
> to go after certain targets like LAX," said Kirk Adams, AFL-CIO organizing
> director. "It really is a strategic part of the world. If you don't do it in
> L.A., you ain't gonna get it done."
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