Vol. 1, No. 6                                                                                                        July 2014

Flora Johnson, Executive Board Chair of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Speaks Out About Harris vs. Quinn


I'm a Personal Assistant for my son Kenneth who has cerebral palsy.


I live on the south side of Chicago and have been a Personal Assistant for 15 years, but I've cared for Kenneth his entire life; he is now 47 years old.


I help my son with bathing, getting dressed, using the restroom, eating, I do his laundry every day, when he wants to go outside I go with him, I help him with exercise to strengthen his legs, hands, and muscles. I do everything I can to help him be independent and live with dignity.


Anyone who says this work isn't important should walk a day in our shoes. Over 25,000 Personal Assistants provide these critical services each day, serving over 30,000 people with disabilities in Illinois. Our work allows them to stay at home and live independently.


Since I've been with SEIU we have more stability. With our union, we have a voice, we have collective bargaining, we sit across the table from the state and negotiate our salaries and benefits.


Before our union, everything was dictated to us. We made $1 an hour with no benefits and no training. We were invisible. Then, we organized and got to $7 an hour. Now we're on our way to $13 an hour starting in December 2014. We also have health insurance and paid training. But Personal Assistants aren't the only ones benefitting. With higher wages and better benefits, turnover has gone down among the workforce and consumers have reliable workers that don't have to look elsewhere for jobs to support their families.


While we're disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision, we are still determined. We will not go backwards! No court case will stop home care workers and consumers from sticking together and fighting for good jobs and quality care for seniors and people with disabilities. We are ready to work with the State and all of you -- our partners, to make whatever changes are necessary to make sure we continue to have a strong voice through our union. Together, we are all stronger and can keep moving home care forward. I'm ready to get to work and I'm confident you all are too!


Join the discussion of Harris vs. Quinn on WWHP's Facebook page.

Harris vs. Quinn Matters

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court came to a decision on Harris vs. Quinn, a case that made few headlines, but which was of fundamental importance to union workers.  


In Illinois, home care workers who are paid by Medicaid are considered state employees and are represented by the union SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana.  


All home care workers have to pay a fee for bargaining expenses whether they wish to be members of the union or not. With the Harris vs. Quinn decision, payment will be optional.  


This is a troublesome prospect for SEIU, since workers will be able to benefit from the union without paying into it, limiting the union's funding and possibly jeopardizing its existence. The Supreme Court's decision sets a dangerous precedent for unions in the U.S. 

Ninety Years Later, Women Battle on for the  

Equal Rights Amendment

In October 1975, WWHP board member Sue Straus (third from left) holds a
banner in a march supporting the Equal Rights Amendment.

On August 26, 1920, after a long and tumultuous battle where many women went to jail, American women finally won the right to vote. The next step after achieving suffrage was to end gender discrimination entirely by means of a constitutional amendment. The amendment, titled the Equal Rights Amendment, was written by feminists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman and introduced to Congress in 1923. The ERA found no success until 1972, when the amendment was passed by Congress, then sent out to all 50 states to be ratified. However, fifteen states (including Illinois) did not ratify it, even after the deadline was extended. As a result, the amendment fell short of achieving the three-quarters majority it needed to pass.


Nearly forty years later, the ERA still hangs in limbo. But there are many people fighting to pass the amendment at long last. Activists are currently employing two strategies: one, initiated by Representative Carolyn Mahoney of New York, re-starts the ratification process, ideally with no deadline placed upon it. The other, called the three-state strategy, targets the states that never ratified the ERA during the original timeframe. This strategy takes into account that Congress has the ability to repeal or move the original deadline, as it did for the 1996 Madison Amendment. Therefore, the ERA may pass if only three more states ratify it. The three states that are the primary focus of this strategy include Virginia, Florida, and Illinois.


In 2014, the Illinois Senate voted to ratify the ERA, but the House did not vote. Three-fifths of the Illinois General Assembly must vote for the ratification for it to pass. The fall session begins November 19th, and activists are working hard to press state representatives to move the ERA forward for next year. Backers of this attempt include the American Association of University Women, The ACLU, the Illinois AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME, National Organization for Women, National Nurses United, Illinois State's Attorney Lisa Madigan and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. 


Click here to visit ERA NOW - Illinois, a Facebook group dedicated to getting the ERA passed in Illinois.