A highly skilled, robust, professional workforce is essential to providing quality service and supports for persons with disabilities and mental illness.  Low wages and limited access to benefits has resulted in, extremely high turnover in the human service workforce.  This turnover can cause gaps in services, create lack of continuity in care, and interfere with the development of positive relationships between workers and those they support.  We are committed to establishing the human services profession as a viable career path with decent wages, benefits, opportunities for growth and training, and other initiatives to recruit, train and retain a workforce that can provide high quality service and supports.
Quality Services
Our members are committed to delivering the highest quality services and supports for persons with mental health needs and developmental disabilities.  As the person with most frequent and consistent interactions with clients and consumers, human service professionals are a key link in the quality of care.  By joining their voices together and working alongside the advocacy community, human service professionals have made great strides to improve the quality of services and supports they provide.
Self Determination
Our members share a deep and demonstrated commitment to working with advocates to ensure the most inclusive and empowering services for persons with mental health needs and developmental disabilities. In 2005 SEIU joined 180 other organizations in endorsing the community imperative and has worked to transform these principles into action.  We believe people should be able to stay in their own homes and control their lives including deciding how and by whom they will receive services and support.  In states around the country we are working to expand access to consumer directed services, home and community based waivers, and increase the consumer’s control of where services are provided and who is providing them.
We envision a future where there is adequate funding for all people with mental health needs and developmental disabilities to access the service and supports they need in the setting of their choosing.  The only way to achieve this, especially in the current budget environment, is by uniting the workers, families, advocates and individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities to speak with one voice to preserve essential services and aggressively pursue new funding streams that increase access.

Pay raises should be on the way for DC workers

Thanks to our hard work, DC government just passed regulations saying it will finally implement the Living Wage law we passed in 2004.

This means group home workers in DC should now make $12.50 an hour according to DC law.

Nathaniel Wallace, NCC

Nathaniel Wallace, NCC

“The victory on the living wage is a good thing for us. People like us deserve a better treatment. What we do is more than a job. Taking care of other people is hard.”
Nathaniel Wallace, NCC

Low wages and limited benefits in this field has led to high turnover of workers, and negatively impacted the quality of services for people with disabilities.  This is a huge victory for DC group home workers and we are especially proud of our role in making this happen.

“The living wage victory is a long overdue victory. I’ve been in this industry for more than 11 years and there is no money or good pay. This is really good.” Violate B. Lee, IDI

Violate B. Lee, IDI

Violate B. Lee, IDI

But our work is not done.

Now we have to hold DC government and DC employers accountable to make sure the Living Wage law becomes a reality in our paychecks.

Join Violate, Nathaniel and the  Living Wage Action Team to find out how you can get involved to win better pay.

Are you a group home worker or someone who provided service and supports to people with disabilities?

Are you receiving the $12.50/hr living wage you deserve?  Tell us about it and share your story.

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Hundreds of mental heath and home caregivers rally in Olympia to protect services

Put People First!
On April 7, more than 500 community mental health workers and long-term caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and 775NW, rallied at the state capitol in Olympia, WA. The healthcare workers urged legislators to protect essential mental health, disability care and low-income housing programs by closing tax loopholes benefiting banks and wealthy corporations.

After protesting outside a Chase Bank branch, union members occupied the State Capitol rotunda for several hours; sixteen members of local 775NW staged a nonviolent sit-in outside Governor Gregoire’s office and were arrested by Capitol police. By the end of the day, the Governor agreed to meet with a delegation of healthcare workers, who delivered the same message: balancing the state budget solely by cutting social and human services is immoral. Before cutting services, we must close tax loopholes benefiting Wall Street banks and other wealthy interests.
The action at the state capitol is part of a broad effort to protect vital human services in Washington. Proposed budget cuts would leave 27,000 Washington kids without healthcare and tens of thousands of people with mental illness are losing housing and services. Meanwhile, legislators are giving away millions in tax breaks to corporate chicken farms for warm chicken bedding, $5 million a year to private jet owners, and $100 million a year to Wall Street Banks.

In March, 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN, MN, brought the twisted priorities of the state to life with an Op-Ed published in the Olympian when she described the differences between Bill and a chicken. Bill suffers from mental illness and chemical dependency, but thanks to a vital program Disability Lifeline, he has been able to get on his feet. Unfortunately, as Diane writes, Bill’s needs are not as important as a chicken:

…last fall the state cut monthly Disability Lifeline payments from $339 to $258. Bill could no longer afford to rent his apartment, and began sleeping on the street. Without the support he needed, he relapsed, found himself in jail, then ended up in an intensive inpatient treatment facility.

Now about those chickens: Ten years ago, the state Legislature passed a special tax break to benefit a few dozen factory farms that raise chickens. There’s a tax break on bedding – wood shavings, sawdust, straw, shredded paper – and another tax break for natural gas to heat the barns so the birds can stay warm. All told, these tax breaks cost Washington $4.5 million over the last four years. With the state facing a $5 billion deficit, it’s time for the corporate chicken farms to pay their fair share.

We’ve got our work cut out for us in state houses like Washington across the US. SEIU members are standing with people with disabilities and mental health needs to protect human services, not tax breaks for corporations and millionaires. Sign-up here to stay up to date on our in WA and across the US.

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Governor Patrick Supports Bridgwell Workers’ Right to Organize

Bridgewell workers discuss union campaign and workplace concerns with Governor Patrick

Bridgewell workers discuss union campaign and workplace concerns with Governor Patrick

On Tuesday, the Bridgewell Organizing Committee spoke with Governor Patrick about our campaign and talked about the reasons that we’re forming a union at Bridgewell.

Governor Patrick was concerned as we spoke about putting in years of service with little or no raises, seeing our co-workers unjustly fired, and fearing for our jobs after taking vacation time to visit family back home. The governor reinforced his support for our right to organize without fear and intimidation and wished us luck in our election.

The Governor joins a growing list of elected officials and community leaders, including Lynn City Council, who support our campaign for dignity and respect at Bridgewell.

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Vote on Extreme House Republicans’ Budget Shows Who Stands With Working Families

Vote on Extreme House Republicans’ Budget Shows Who Stands With Working Families

After the House of Representatives passed the Republican budget resolution, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“While the outcome of today’s vote is not a surprise, it is still disappointing that House Republicans supported a proposal that would harm millions of seniors, people with disabilities, women and children who rely on Medicaid and Medicare. House Republicans aim to fundamentally dismantle these essential programs to pay for even more tax giveaways to corporations and millionaires.

“While we must take serious measures to address our serious fiscal challenges, the House Republicans’ budget is a non-starter. Representatives who voted against the budget resolution deserve credit, but now Democrats in Congress should take the lead to devise a budget that reflects our national values and priorities. The House Republicans’ extreme proposal should be left to wither on the vine.”

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Transforming the Mental Health System in California

States around the country are facing difficult budget realities and the after effects of the financial crisis. We all know that vital human services are the last to be funded and first to be cut, and will likely be on the chopping block again this year. Fortunately, we we can look to the recent past for examples of how SEIU members and community advocates have stood together to prevent cuts and expand access to services with innovative funding solutions.

In 2004, the thousands of SEIU workers in California who assist people diagnosed with mental illnesses rallied in the face of budget shortfalls that were depriving special-needs citizens from getting the assistance they need.

Together with advocacy organizations for people with mental health issues, they pushed for a new law that would bring hundreds of millions of new dollars into California’s mental health system, and also reform the ways mental health dollars were spent. (more…)

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Empower Oregon

Empower Oregon is an integrated campaign of SEIU Local 503, with the goal of uniting frontline mental health and addictions workers to successfully advocate for their clients, their services and themselves from their workplaces all the way to the State Capitol.

One of the biggest challenges to quality community based social services is adequate funding.  Empower Oregon volunteers, many from unrepresented private non profit social service agencies, joined 503 members in January to pass two tax reform measures which saved much of the current funding levels for critical services in Oregon.  This was no small task since Oregonians historically turn down any sort of tax related measures.

In March, after a bill passed implementing severely restrictive criminal history background check rules for workers, our efforts obtained a delay in implementation for drug and alcohol counselors.  Many of the most successful additions counselors were once users themselves with criminal histories connected to their substance abuse. Overcoming their addictions adds much value to their life experience often making them the most credible and effective counselors for those still suffering. Since the delay in the new law covering addictions counselors was not permanent, sustained effort was called for.

In July Empower Oregon and ACCBO, the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon, lead a “Recovery Oriented Systems of Care” public forum on the issue.  Voice was given to hundreds of affected addictions counselors, clients, and community supporters who came together to listen, share and learn about restrictive and inconsistent issues with Oregon’s criminal background check system. Present to hear the testimony was a panel of legislators and State Department of Human Services officials. State Representative Michael Dembrow summed up the thoughts of everyone who attended the forum by saying: “If the law prevents [therapists and caregivers] from working in this field and giving back to the community, then the law must be changed.”

Stakeholders continue to come together, lead by Empower Oregon’s effort to give front line workers a real voice for quality accessible community based mental health and addictions services.  Many workers interested in a lasting voice at their agencies as well as the Capitol are taking a look at becoming part of SEIU Local 503 in order to join with union members who serve the same clients and mirror their dedication to quality services.  They see that when it comes to improving the quality of services we provide, they really are STRONGER TOGETHER.

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