Home care workers hit the streets to demand living wages, respect
Home healthcare workers are increasingly critical to the delivery of healthcare in the US. They marched today in 28 cities demanding better pay and respect on the job. | Tony Dejak/AP

WASHINGTON—Organized by the Service Employees, notably their Local 32BJ, thousands of home care workers and their allies took to the streets from coast to coast on July 13 to demand living wages and respect on the job.

“Workers across the country are coming together. to demand jobs, care, and justice,” SEIU posted as the logo for its campaign. “Any plan put forth by the (Biden) administration or Congress to move our country forward needs to ensure home care workers are respected, protected and paid—once and for all.”

At least 28 rallies and events were scheduled, including a bus caravan from West Virginia to D.C. to pressure Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., the most conservative Democrat in the 50-50 Senate, to support the cause.

Events featured a six-hour rally in downtown Washington’s near-100 degree heat, and rallies in Chicago, Los Angeles, Hartford, Conn., Orlando and Tampa, Fla., Anchorage, Alaska, Denver, Oakland, Calif., St. Paul, St. Louis, and seven in Washington state, including Seattle.

The last was from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Eastern Time at 43 Park Row in downtown Manhattan.

Whether lawmakers were listening is up for grabs. Just six days before the marches, on July 7, bipartisan Senate negotiators and Democratic President Joe Biden gathered on the White House lawn to again trumpet their agreement on the slimmed down version, worth $1.2 trillion over eight years, of Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

And they flourished a jointly written endorsement from the Laborers, the AFL-CIO, its Transportation Trades Department, and North America’s Building Trades Unions, as well as corporate interests, including the Chamber of Commerce and the notoriously anti-worker National Retail Federation.

“We urge Congress to turn this framework into legislation that will be signed into law, and our organizations are committed to helping see this cross the finish line,” the groups’ joint statement said.

“Enacting significant infrastructure legislation, including investments in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, transit, rail, water and energy infrastructure, access to broadband, and more, is critical to our nation and will create middle-class family sustaining jobs.

“Don’t let partisan differences get in the way of action. Pass significant, meaningful infrastructure legislation now,” they urged.

The jobs plan hit the Senate floor as early as July 16, once solons returned July 13 from their Independence Day recess. But it needs at least 10 Republican votes, plus all 48 Democrats and both independents to avoid a Senate GOP filibuster and pass.

Notably missing from either that jobs plan press conference or subsequent statements: Any mention of the other section of Biden’s, and labor’s, agenda: The American Families Plan, including higher pay for home health care workers.

But after a one-on-one meeting with Biden on July 12, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt—a longtime and fervent supporter of all workers’ causes—said he’s moving ahead with a separate budget “reconciliation” bill that presumably includes the hikes for the home care workers. Reconciliation bills just need a simple majority, letting Biden’s Vice President, Kamala Harris, break any 50-50 tie.

“What I have been working on with many of my colleagues is a major, major piece of legislation”—the reconciliation bill—”that finally addresses the needs of working families of this country,” Sanders said in a televised interview the weekend before his meeting with Biden. “And I hope we can get something passed within this next month” before lawmakers take another recess.



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.