SEIU Blog - Service Employees International Union

Gloria small.jpgGloria Marigny was one of my first mentors in the Union. I met her in February 1981 when the International union assigned me to work at Local 399 in LA. Secretary-Treasurer, Gloria Marigny was already an International Board member when I met her. She was a force to be reckoned with.

She taught me how to do a walk through at Kaiser Sunset - cover 1500 members in 5 buildings - moving fast but making clear that each member was the most important person to you at the moment of visit. She schooled me into how to get nursing home workers to trust you at bus stops during shift change - building lists to organize. I loved watching her challenge Employers to do right by workers and their union. She had a well-developed use of humor to cut tension and bring things to agreement. She also was tough as nails - but rarely had to demonstrate that because she earned a reputation for being an unrelenting advocate for janitors, nursing home and Kaiser members.

I wish I had met her with more years under my belt. She was a pioneer in so many ways - the first African American woman officer of her Local Union and one our International Executive Board. I would have asked so many more questions than I did 34 years ago.

We are so blessed as a union family that this great woman served our Union. Please join me in extending our blessings to her daughter, USWW executive board leader Deborah Russell.

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8:06 PM Eastern - Friday, July 24, 2015

Reflections from the New York Fast Food Wage Board #default

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As one of the three members of the New York Fast Food Wage Board, I had the privilege of announcing our historic recommendation: $15 an hour for fast food workers.

Over the course of two months, I heard stories from hundreds of fast food workers from all across the state. Stories of poverty and barely making it despite doing their best, and it was downright devastating. The emotion and reality of the poverty was overwhelming. One brave woman said, "Democracy should not be synonymous with poverty."

She was right. When did it become okay in America for corporations to treat workers as commodities?

Fast food cooks and cashiers work irregular hours (rarely more than 25 per week). They can't seek another job because they are always on call. They can't get more hours because of the corporate computer modeling of staffing, making them invisible as people.

The hearings gave them a voice. And we responded.

Governor Cuomo deserves credit for empowering this board to fulfill the true mission of government: stepping in when the private sector fails to serve the common good. Now it's time for other elected leaders in cities and states across the nation to follow Gov. Cuomo's lead and take action to raise wages to $15 for all working people.

Read the opinion article Byron Brown, Kevin Ryan, and I - all three members of the Wage Board - published following our recommendation.

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5:30 PM Eastern - Thursday, July 23, 2015

Historic Victory in New York: Wage Board Recommends $15 for Fast Food Workers #default

After the New York Wage Board recommended a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food workers, I was honored to join leaders of this global movement to celebrate a historic milestone.

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When courageous fast food workers first started the Fight for $15 two and a half years ago, nobody thought they had a chance to win. Yesterday, the skeptics were proven wrong. I've never been more drained, exhilarated, and proud all at once. While I'm still trying to fully grasp the significance of yesterday's milestone in our movement building, I'm in awe of what we can accomplish when we stick together.

This historic action by Governor Cuomo's Wage Board will transform the lives of fast food workers and their families across the state. Workers will have more money in their pockets, which they will spend in their communities, in hardware stores and supermarkets.

One fast food leader said that he didn't think the Wage Board would listen - or care about fast food workers. He said, "We are nothing more than the gum on the bottom their shoes. Nobody cares about burger flippers." He said the Wage Board action made him realize that his work has value. "This is the first time in my life I fought for what I believe in and I learned the fight pays off," he said.

I grew up in a family of 10 that taught me that you could make anything happen when the group moved together. Fast Food workers reminded me of this lesson.

For fast food workers like Flavia Cabral, this action means being able to make ends meet at the end of the month and being able to provide for her two daughters. After the decision she talked her way through the Governor's security detail to tell me that her daughter was so happy she won this step. She's happy about this victory because now she won't struggle like her mother did, and maybe even can go to college. We took a selfie together, so she could show her daughter that the victory was real. While Flavia celebrated this big step forward, she is keeping her eye on the ball. "We won $15, but I know that I need to be in a union with all the McDonald's workers--that's the only way I know that I'll be able to make a better life for my girls."

It's stories like Flavia's and those like her who keep this fight going. This victory is a sheer testament to the power of unity and resilience. The global leaders in the Fight for $15 movement are demonstrating what I learned as the eldest of 10 siblings -- that we are our brothers and sisters' keepers - and when we unite we win more than wages, we win respect and we continue the fight until we win recognition of our family, our union.

We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and the Wage Board for its diligent work, listening to the facts and the voices of fast food workers and their families.

This historic victory will inspire underpaid workers all across the nation to stand up and unite for $15 and a union. Every elected leader in America should now feel the pressure to follow Governor Cuomo's lead and take action to raise wages for working people.

As we celebrate a major victory for working people, we must remember the millions of hard working people who still cannot provide for their families. We believe that home care providers, airport workers, child care teachers and many more will be inspired by the fast food workers' victory. We believe that every job can be a good job that supports our communities and the ones we love. And most of all, we know that when we unite, we win.

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5:56 PM Eastern - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Home Care Workers are Unsung Heroes of Healthcare #default

Yesterday, I was honored to join President Obama and brave home care workers and leaders in the Home Care Fight for $15, at the White House Conference on Aging.

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Together with partners like Caring Across Generations and AARP, we put the lack of affordable home care and the poverty wages paid home care workers squarely on policymakers' agenda. There is a Care Crisis in this country, evidenced by the Senior Care Gap. In every state, there are more seniors in need of daily care than there are available home care workers. Everyone should have access to the services they need so they can live in their own homes with dignity and independence. And no one should be paid poverty wages and denied decent benefits to do this important work.

I was so moved at the determination and courage of people like Katie Jordan of the Workers United Retirees Association who stood up and asked policymakers for support for $15 an hour and a union.

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9:31 AM Eastern - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Travelling to North Carolina to March for Voting Rights #default

Yesterday, along with dozens of fellow members of SEIU Local 512 in Virginia, I got on a bus to travel to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to march in solidarity with my union brothers and sisters, as well as activists from the NAACP and countless groups from around the country, to give voice to those who have been disenfranchised by voter suppression efforts in North Carolina and across the country.

No matter what the U.S. Supreme Court may say, voter discrimination based on race is not a thing of the past--it is a reality that persists today.

We saw many efforts to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters in the 2012 election.

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5:57 PM Eastern - Friday, July 10, 2015

The Widening Gap in Care; Home Care Worker Pay and Training Not Keeping Up with Demand #default

Three years ago, Shirley Thompson's life changed when she met home care worker Jasmin Almodovar.

"I don't know what I would do without her. Jasmin is priceless to me. She helps me with my meals, dressing, and hygiene. She takes me to my doctor appointments," Thompson explained. "She's like family, but she does more than I could ever ask my family to do."

Shirley never thought she'd need home care, but an injury on the job changed everything. She now needs assistance seven days a week with daily activities many take for granted. At first, she spent time in a nursing home, but now she's able to remain in her own home, thanks to Jasmin.

And she's not alone.

A new report released by the Home Care Fight for $15 and Caring Across Generations points out that 19 million seniors need care services--a number set to nearly double by 2050--but there aren't nearly enough home care workers to provide those services. Nationally, there are on average nine home care consumers for every home care worker, and in some states such as Florida, the ratio is as high as one worker for every 35 seniors. That divide will only grow as 10,000 people turn 65 every day.

"The senior care gap is the most serious issue facing aging Americans. There are simply not enough home care workers to meet the growing demand," said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union. "If we want to make sure our loved ones get the care they need, we must make home care jobs good jobs and create a well-funded long term care system that supports affordable, accessible, high-quality care. That's why home care consumers and home care workers across the country are part of the Fight for $15."

The report also emphasizes how a shortage of workers leaves nearly one-third of seniors in need of assistance and in jeopardy of missing meals, taking the wrong doses of medication, or left in wet or soiled clothes from not being able to use the bathroom for long periods of time.

"These findings prove what we've known all along--that as a nation, we've yet to address our unmet caregiving needs in a real way. And as a result, families are worried, stressed out, and scrambling to care for their loved ones," said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations. "It's clear people are hungry for solutions, and it's time we address the needs of 21-st century families and invest in home care."

The solutions are clear and common sense. We need to restructure our long term care system so older Americans and their families can afford the care they need in the setting they choose. In order to ensure home care services are of the highest quality, we need to build a robust system for caregivers and consumers that includes higher wages to help maintain continuity of care, better training opportunities and clearer career pathways to support caring for more complex needs of the aging population.
An investment in our long term care system is an investment in our seniors. It ensures quality, affordable care with dignity, independence, and a better way of life.

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11:59 AM Eastern - Friday, July 10, 2015

Raising the minimum wage helps working people and boosts the economy for everyone #default

A op-ed published this week (Spanish, English via Google Translate) by Univision, "The Inconvenient Truth About Raising the Minimum Wage" by Daniel Garza, makes the argument that raising the minimum wage would hurt the poor. Garza's argument is as ridiculous as it sounds.

His case is the same one that has been used for decades by corporate America to fight minimum wage increases--and has created the largest income gap between rich and poor in the last 50 years. They are also losing arguments, as we've seen growing momentum and victories for minimum wage increases during the last several years.

Here are the real facts.

  • Numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics show the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1, 2014 experienced higher job growth than the states that kept theirs at the same rate.
  • And minimum wage increases have a particularly significant impact on the Latino community. Despite only comprising 15 percent of the country's workforce, 25 percent of those benefitting from increases in the minimum wage would be Latino.

That includes Latinas such as Anggie Godoy of Los Angeles, who made $9 an hour as a cashier at McDonald's, struggling to help her mom pay the rent and to support her two younger siblings. Last spring, Godoy and others went on a hunger strike to bring attention to the Fight for $15 in Los Angeles. Last month, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a bill into law raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

The mayor of Los Angeles isn't alone. In fact, elected leaders across the country have been proposing and passing minimum wage increases for the 15 million hard working Americans who make less than $10 an hour. Higher wages would help ensure that no one who works full time lives in poverty--and help working people provide a better life for their children and their families.

As we approach the 2016 election season, SEIU will be leading the fight to help elect candidates who support efforts to raise the minimum wage, and outreach to the fastest-growing voting demographic--Latinos--which be a major part of the campaign. We will be supporting candidates who not only support wage increases, but also pledge to help fix our broken immigration system as well.

Through these efforts, we will continue to build on the successes we've already achieved and will continue to fight for the millions of American who currently earn poverty wages.

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10:54 AM Eastern - Friday, July 10, 2015

Care Crisis: The Senior Care Gap in America #default

America is in the midst of a senior care crisis. The demand for home care is exploding, but our long term care system is not equipped to meet families' needs.

As outlined in a new report, more than 19 million seniors need long term care supports and services and that number is set to nearly double by 2050. We need a national strategy to address the senior care gap. Failing to do so will result in higher rates of injury and medical complications, higher per capita healthcare costs and more stress on seniors and their families.


Nationwide, there are approximately nine consumers for each worker. There is considerable geographic variation in the care gap. See this interactive map that shows the size of the care gap (measured in consumers per worker).

Learn more at

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10:20 AM Eastern - Thursday, June 25, 2015

BREAKING: 8 million people get to keep their healthcare! #default

Extremists in Congress tried to take away affordable healthcare from 8 million people with a bogus lawsuit, King v. Burwell, but the Supreme Court just handed down their decision: NO.

Despite the Court's ruling, Republicans won't be giving up their campaign to repeal Obamcare anytime soon. Let's put a stop to extremist attempts to tear down this law today.

Call 855-728-5215 right now to tell Republicans in Congress it's time to stop playing politics. Obamacare is working and it's time to move forward. 

The Court's ruling is great news for the 16+ million Americans who have quality, affordable insurance today because of the healthcare law. But opponents of the law aren't stopping. In fact, Republicans in Congress and all the Republican presidential candidates have vowed to repeal Obamacare. It's enough already!

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11:11 PM Eastern - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

King v. Burwell: It's sink or swim trying to stay out of poverty #the-healthcare-law

Following the cases of the U.S. Supreme Court has never been part of my regular routine. But with the King v. Burwell decision expected to come down any day now, I have taken time out of my 90-hour workweek to pay close attention to the Republicans latest attack on my healthcare.

As a home healthcare worker in North Carolina, I spend most of my time helping others live independently despite their illnesses as I work to keep my own family out of poverty. Because the pay is so low for home healthcare workers, it is not uncommon for me to work well over 15 hours a day. I sometimes work 72 hours straight, taking naps in my car before I see my next client. I work for three different home care agencies and make $10 an hour at each agency. After five years of service, I have only had one raise and don't receive medical benefits, paid vacation or sick leave. Every penny I earn goes to keep me out of the container of poverty that so many low-wage workers are forced into. I have been an active part of the growing movement of workers fighting for a $15 dollar an hour wage and union representation.

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