“The Union Is Us”
This chapter looks at the ways that community organizing and political unionism together improved the lives of home care workers and won rights admit a renewed assault on the welfare state. President Reagan shifted the fiscal, ideological, and political ground away from national programs and state funding, cutting benefits and assaulting public employees. Oregon took advantage of his Medicaid waivers to enhance home and community care because a mobilized senior movement had paved the way for a decade. Elsewhere, labor organizers engaged in trench warfare. Beginning as part of the United Labor Unions of the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), SEIU Local 880 in Chicago developed successful models to win real gains from private agencies as well as government. What began as a militant community organizing movement generated adaptive strategies for union growth in an increasingly hostile anti-labor, neoliberal climate. The effectiveness of a metro-level alliance between unions and contractor agencies, however, was most realized in New York City where the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees Local 1199 spearheaded a pattern setting agreement in 1988. The rights of poor women as both clients of and workers for the welfare state defined these union struggles.
Keywords: President Ronald Reagan, Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Claude Pepper, Cooperative Home Care Associates, Oregon Project Independence, ACORN, SEIU 880, Illinois Home Care, National Homecare Systems (Addus), Local 1199
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