As the 23,000 New York state home healthcare workers represented by SEIU District 1199, Martin Luther King’s favorite union, prepare for a June 7 strike date, 1199 has launched the Invisible No More website to bring its cause, and its members’ stories, to a broader audience:
I came to the U.S. from Guyana with great hopes, but the American Dream has become the American Nightmare. My agency doesn’t give me any health benefits or anything, and I can’t miss a day of work because the agency will just give my patients to someone else. Right now, it takes me two hours to get to and from work. I’ve had cases in the past where I traveled three hours to work, worked a four-hour shift, and then traveled three hours home. This is happening to many aides right now, so we are fighting to get a new contract.
When June comes, expect management to begin making appeals to the importance of the work these women and men do so as to frame the planned strike as a cruel and irresponsible action, a strategy deployed against 1199 since its inception (compellingly documented in the unfortunately out-of-print Upheaval in the Quiet Zone). Thus it becomes all the more important to reclaim the discourse on the urgency of this work, and to demonstrate that truly valuing the health of patients means valuing the work done for them by valuing the people who did it and justly compensating them for it with living wages and affordable healthcare of their own. Nothing makes this case better than the testimony of individual workers.
I work close to 40 hours a week if you include travel time, but I only get paid for the 20 hours I spend with my patients. Raising a son on $140 a week is pretty much impossible, I have to rely on the government for everything, and I don’t want to rely on anyone but God and myself. My 6 years in the U.S. have worn away my dignity. I want health benefits, I want more than $7 an hour, I want to be able to give my son all that he deserves.
Pledge your support here, and donate to their strike fund here (or with the links on the right).