Flanked by signs bearing the slogan “Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us,” a socially distanced gathering of Indiana home care workers met with U.S. Congressman Frank J. Mrvan Friday July 2, 2021 for a town hall in support of a historic proposal that would invest $400 billion in home- and community-based services, which would create a million new good, union home care jobs as demands for quality care rise nationwide.
“I commend the SEIU and their incredible unionized workforce for hosting this event and demonstrating the great value their members provide for our home- and community-based care services,” said Mrvan. “We would not have gotten past this health pandemic without our incredible frontline care workers, and it is past time to make the investments that are necessary to show our care workforce the support and dignity that they deserve.”
Care workers in Gary, who were also joined by Indiana consumers who depend on critical care services as well as NAACP members from local chapters, shared their experiences as frontline workers during a deadly pandemic and called on elected leaders to support the White House’s proposed $400 billion investment in home care jobs.
“This 400 billion dollar investment is desperately needed, and I mean desperately. I’ve been taking care of Ashley for six years and she has become part of my family and I love her to death. There are only two of us taking care of Ashley at this moment,” said Melissa Reynolds, a home care worker and member of SEIU Healthcare Indiana. “I have worked as many as 80 hours in one week just to make sure Ashley is getting the care she needs. This has taken away from my time with my family. This just isn’t a job to me, I love what I do and I love her. Let me tell you, I struggle on a daily basis. Not knowing if I will make enough to pay my bills.”
“Nobody wants to come to work all day and change people’s diapers for 11 dollars an hour. Really? That’s terrible,” said Wesley Scully, President of LaPorte County NAACP. “So what we need as Americans is to simply make the people we vote for have common sense. You cannot keep good healthcare workers when they have to work themselves to the bone and then work another job on the weekend just to pay rent and put food in the cupboard.”
The town hall was part of a nationwide program spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose members are hosting key Senators and Members of Congress in more than 20 states for a series of in-person and virtual town halls over the next six weeks. Participants are sending a strong message that the President’s care plan offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make care jobs good, union jobs and build the foundation of a new, resilient middle class that includes the majority-women-of-color care workforce. Of the 2.3 million home care workers in the U.S., 87% are women, 62% are people of color, and one in three are immigrants.
Home care is also the nation’s fastest-growing job sector, as roughly 10,000 people Americans turn 65 each day. The U.S. will need to fill an estimated 4.7 million home care jobs, including over one million new jobs, by 2028. The investment in home- and community-based care would help transform our economy into one that works for all, not just some.
The town hall program, which represents SEIU workers’ first major leap from virtual to in-person since the beginning of the pandemic, is part of a nationwide campaign led by Black, Latina, Asian, indigenous and immigrant women home care workers. Over the last several months, home care workers have come together on tele-town halls (attended by tens of thousands of workers), for lobby days with members of Congress, and for local protests, marches, speakouts, car caravans and vigils.
Also included in this effort is SEIU’s $3 million investment in TV, radio and digital ads running in the Beltway and 12 states to reach key U.S. Senators and battleground voters, elevating home care workers’ demand that Congress pass the care plan including the $400B earmarked to create a million new care jobs and transform them into good, union jobs that pay at least $15/hour.