Everyone’s talking about California’s “housing crisis,” but what they don’t often say is just how many Californians are struggling to afford housing even as we hold full-time jobs. Many SEIU members are among the one in three Californians who strain to stretch our paychecks between rent, groceries, and utilities. We live with constant worry that an unexpected car repair or illness could mean eviction.
Experts say housing shouldn’t cost more than 30 percent of a family’s income, but we all know that “should” doesn’t pay the bills. As housing prices have shot up across the state, more and more of us are facing tough situations like long commutes, living in our cars, or crashing in a friend’s garage.
I spend more than half my check on rent, but in some ways, I feel lucky that my job with Sacramento City Unified School District allows me to afford a safe place for my son and I to call home. Unfortunately, that home comes with a roof that leaks, cracks in the ceiling and several power outlets that don’t work. I’m afraid that if I complain to my landlord about these problems, she will raise my rent even more or threaten to put me and my son out on the street. Last winter, I asked her to fix a heater that was blowing cold air into my apartment. She did, but it came with a 6% increase in my rent.
When we as Californians must work more than one job to afford a home for our families, when we are just one emergency or missed paycheck away from losing our homes, SEIU members have to take action.
Last week, standing with many others from SEIU, I joined California legislators and housing advocates to push for protections for renters who are facing rising rents and evictions. We were clear: workers can’t pursue the California Dream so long as landlords have free reign to raise rents by as much as 50 percent or even 100 percent do so without notice and on a whim.
Fighting for these important tenant protections made me feel proud that my union is leading the way to ensure that working people in this state have the chance to reach the California Dream and create a good life for our kids. We’re looking at everything from how to build more affordable housing for low and middle-income families to preventing rent gouging and standing up for tenants who face discrimination by landlords.
By standing together in our union, shoulder to shoulder with other community members, we will make real change when it comes to housing justice and affordability.
Update: Since speaking at the Capitol, Robyn received a letter from her landlord stating her rent will increase again in June.
It’s Women’s History Month! We want to celebrate all our strong women workers in our union and how they strengthen the labor movement.
Our union is made up in a large majority of women workers. 7 out of our 10 members are female and 6 out of 10 female members are women of color. Aside from fighting for good workplaces, these women also fight to close the wage gap between women and men. Studies show that women in California are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual wage gap of $7,227.1 This wage gap is even higher for women of color. It is important that we, as a union, continue to empower women in the workplace to speak up but also close the inequality gap. No matter our gender we deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace. Women in unions earn higher wages by up to 26%. By contract bargaining, fighting for benefits, and wage increases, women union members have that advantage of building their futures.
Benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and apprenticeship opportunities within the union also allow women to grow in their careers and quality of life. The likelihood of accessibility to workplace covered healthcare insurance is 32 percentage points higher for union workers compared to non-union workers (76% versus 44%). Many SEIU members who are women also have opportunities to participate in internships for career advancement that might not otherwise be available to them. Working toward laying foundations for the future, these benefits provide support that’s vastly needed for women in the workplace.
All throughout our locals, we see the strength in women member leaders! From the “Ya Basta” Promotoras of USWW, who speak up against sexual harassment at their workplaces, or to the Mothers of Local 2015 who double as care providers for their children with disabilities. These are just a couple examples of who our members are, throughout California there are many stories similar to these. Working women who have used their union to build up other workers around them and lead on to countless victories and opportunities.
When we gather together in our local unions, three concerns consistently come up: wages, housing, and healthcare. In a recent statement, SEIU Local 1021 and SEIU California President Roxanne Sanchez explained why our union is aggressively confronting healthcare corporations over unjustified prices this year:
“SEIU California is fighting for new and expanded healthcare prices and quality transparency….we know families can’t keep stretching their paychecks to cover unjustified insurance costs and our state won’t achieve our vision for universal, accessible, affordable and equitable care until we tackle unjustified skyrocketing health care prices.”
Many of us work in the healthcare system and see how corporations are pricing our patients out of care. SEIU members who work in the public and private sectors feel the pinch as health premiums eat into our wages. We know we can’t wait any longer to start tackling rising prices and reigning in unaccountable corporations.
Our push this year builds on the ground-shifting work we’ve done to expand healthcare to more Californians while at the same time working to make care more affordable and accountable. We have enrolled thousands in Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal to include struggling workers, families and undocumented youth. As a result, more than 93% of Californians now have health coverage. Meanwhile, we continue to make gains in quality of care — for example, fighting to increase nurse staffing ratios at hospitals.
Being healthy is essential to the California Dream, but out-of-control healthcare costs are crushing opportunities for Californians and our families. Holding corporations accountable for fair healthcare prices means protecting workers’ paychecks at a time when so many are worried about rising costs.
Even as we continue pushing alongside community partners to bring the number of Californians with access to care to 100%, we are also building momentum to crack down on price gouging by healthcare corporations.
The good news is that we’ve elected a Governor in Gavin Newsom who shares our commitment to healthcare that is accessible and affordable. The Governor has already put the pharmaceutical industry on notice that California will demand price fairness for prescription drugs, and use the state’s bargaining power to negotiate better deals to benefit public and private sector workers.
There will be LOTS of opportunities to get involved in a healthy California that works for all. Through lobby days and rallies, to providing your expertise as a front line worker in the fight and sharing your story — we will be able to restore a healthy California.
This work to build a quality, affordable, universal healthcare system matters to union members across industries including security officer, Morgan McCormick:
Right now, with her current company, Morgan has healthcare coverage, but it’s expensive.
“With my medical condition, I end up paying about $600 per month out of pocket,” she says. “I don’t know many security officers who can afford that. I can’t, but I have to pay it to take care of myself.”
She’s been without coverage before, and it took a big toll on her health.
“When a new company took over my site, I lost my health insurance for a bit. To keep my condition in check, I had to go on pills that weren’t right for me, but they were all I could afford. I ended up in Urgent Care in a lot of pain and I might have done permanent damage to my kidneys. I just think these companies should offer affordable insurance,” she says.
It is because of these hardships that Morgan is joining together with hundreds of her fellow security officers to form a union in San Diego.
SEIU United Service Workers West (USWW) Member
San Diego, CA
This is an excerpt from the Stand with Security Blog.
We are 700,000 members strong and each year we commence lobbying after the Governor introduces his budget and ends with the Governor signing a number of pieces of legislation. Every year, hundreds of SEIU members, lobby in Sacramento and in local elected officials’ district offices. We speak to key decision makers about important bills or budget items that affect our union and communities. During these visits, we share our stories and experiences and ask legislators if we can count on their vote.
This year, we are lobbying on issues from workers’ rights, to healthcare, education, child care, and social services. When we lobby, we actively take a role in the political system and serve as a strong voice in creating change. Our expertise as frontline workers and our stories as community members are the most effective way to help humanize a budget item or a piece of legislation.
On February 6, SEIU and UDW members who are child care providers and working parents kicked off the lobbying season in Sacramento. We humanized the need pass AB 378, the Building a Better Early Care and Education System Act, which will allow California’s 40,000 early childhood educators to join child care providers in 11 others states who are able to negotiate with the state for improvements to the early childhood education system. This includes increasing access for low-income children and families who cannot afford the rising cost of child care – now estimated at as much as $14,000 a year per child in California – and helping providers be able to support their own families, since they now do not receive health benefits and earn low wages paid by the state.
Providers shared their stories at a press event and then went into the capitol to lobby legislators. When sharing her story, Tonia McMillian, a family child care provider and SEIU Local 99 member from Bellflower said, “Providers like me know what children need to get the best education in the critical 0-5 years. We’re excited to come together in our union so we can formally be California kids’ best advocates. Given the important responsibilities we have educating children and keeping them safe, we need a seat at the table to negotiate for the things the kids in our care and our own families need.”
Throughout the year, child care providers and many other SEIU members will go to Sacramento and making their voices be heard for the good of our workplaces and communities.
We worked hard to elect Governor Gavin Newsom, a leader with bold ideas and a strong commitment to working people. Newsom’s first state budget proposal is the values-based budget we were looking for; it shows how working people’s voice at the ballot box translates into tangible improvements in Californians’ lives.
Governor Newsom said he views “the California Dream as a house we are building together,” and this budget lays a strong foundation by:
Our key priorities include:
Mrs. Daniels was a trailblazer in homecare as she dedicated her life to the noble fight of unionizing some of California’s hardest working people who every day, provide lifeline care for the well-being and health of our most vulnerable citizens. Her efforts led to the organizing of 80,000 homecare providers in Los Angeles in 1999, the largest union organizing victory in the United States since the heyday of auto worker organizing in the 1930’s and the first of homecare providers. Today, 500,000 homecare providers have union representation.
“My heart is heavy but I take solace in the fact that her last days were filled with love, warm wishes, phone calls and visits from homecare members who always valued her sacrifice and courage to demand that homecare providers be recognized for the care they provide and be treated with the dignity they deserve. I know we will honor her legacy by exhibiting the same courage and sacrifice it will take to win justice for the180,000 homecare providers and their families who she spent the better part of 25 years fighting for selflessly,” said Laphonza Butler, President of SEIU ULTCW.
Mrs. Daniels’ commitment to working people and social justice is detailed in the book, “Women’s Work: Los Angeles Homecare Workers Revitalize the Labor Movement,” which tells the extraordinary stories of women of color standing together to demand fair wages, benefits, and the right to be “invisible no more.”
Mrs. Daniels is survived by her daughter, Deidrea Daniels Sherman and her grandchild, Evan. The movement she was helped start well over two decades ago has grown to be one of the most powerful in the state and in the nation.
Funeral services will take place on Tuesday, October 11th at 11:00 am.
West Angeles Church
3045 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles 90016
SACRAMENTO – More than 50 California public employees and retirees staged a protest Wednesday in front the luxury car dealership partially owned by former Sacramento-area Assemblyman Roger Niello, a multimillionaire who filed a ballot proposition to gut retirement benefits for public servants.
Public employees and retirees, including firefighters, scientists, engineers and teachers, urged a boycott of Niello’s dealerships in the Sacramento area, home to more than 60,000 state employees.
“This poorly crafted proposition amounts to an assault on California’s middle class,” said Harvey Robinson, President of the Retired Public Employees’ Association of California. “It is time for our leaders to start standing up to corporate interests who are part of a national attack on public workers and their retirement security.”
The average state employee brings in a $26,000-a-year pension. “That can’t buy a single new car on this lot. Some retirees take home less than $1,000 a month – barely enough to cover health care and living costs, let alone a car payment,” Robinson said.
Retirees and the 60,000 state employees in the Sacramento region play a critical part in supporting its economy. Niello’s proposition will hurt the economy at a time it can least afford it. Protesters also called for the support of other dealerships that back state workers and retirees who contribute to the region’s economy.
Yet another report illustrates that 401ks are not enough — and that America will be facing a growing crisis of retirement insecurity and senior poverty. Read the Wall Street Journal article on the report. Despite the mounting evidence that 401k plans don’t work for the average worker, anti-working family politicians are engaged in a coordinated nationwide campaign to do away with the proven savings of defined benefits pension retirement plans and replace them with risky individual plans
Workers Will Protest Anti-Immigrant Law
Long-term care workers from SEIU-ULTCW headed to Arizona to protest the anti-immigrant SB 1070 with hundreds of other workers from Los Angeles County.
“The Free Ride Ends in 2010”
Nearly a thousand students, workers, and community allies gathered in the Westwood area of Los Angeles to march on the headquarters of Occidental Oil, one of the four largest oil producers in the state of California. California is the only major oil-producing state in the nation that does not tax oil drilling, and this loophole allows the oil companies to take $1.2 billion a year from taxpayers, school children, seniors, and college students.