Call for Participants: Home-Based Worker Organizing Forum in April!

Steve Early

Domestic Workers United, shown here rallying last summer to extend basic protections like overtime and sick leave to domestic workers, will be part of a special workshop at this year's Labor Notes conference for those involved in organizing and representing home-based workers.

Workshop/​worker pan­el to take place April 23 – 25, in Detroit, Michi­gan, in con­junc­tion with the 2010 Labor Notes Con­fer­ence.

Dear Broth­er or Sis­ter:

We write because of our 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 on-going 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, in con­junc­tion with the bien­ni­al Labor Notes con­fer­ence in Detroit, Michi­gan, there will be a wide-rang­ing day­long 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 on-going 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.​com or 6179307327.

You can reg­is­ter now for the over­all April 23 – 25 con­fer­ence, at www​.Labor​No​tes​.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

Steve Ear­ly worked for 27 years as an orga­niz­er and inter­na­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­i­ca. He is the author of sev­er­al books, includ­ing Refin­ery Town: Big Oil, Big Mon­ey, and the Remak­ing of an Amer­i­can City (Bea­con Press). 

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