Sara Lonardo,

Issued February 05, 2019

SEIU: Working families tell the real State of the Union

WASHINGTON – SEIU leaders and members across the country are speaking out before tonight’s State of the Union Address to shine a spotlight on the realities faced by working people - Black, white and brown - and the communities across the nation and show how they’re fighting back for change. These people - who have different ethnicities, faiths and national origins - are all united behind a common set of values: that we are stronger when we stand beside our brothers and sisters and our leaders need to honor this, not push policies and rhetoric that pit us against each other.

“The State of Working People, our families and our communities is very different than what we’ll hear tonight. America aspires to be a country of compassion, opportunity and hope where you can live in dignity, raise your kids to do better than you did and not have to work for poverty wages until the day you die,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “Because our economic and political systems are so badly rigged for corporations and billionaires, and against working people of all races, this vision is far from a reality for too many people.”

“To say the government shutdown hurt working families, like mine, would be an understatement. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to pay my car insurance, my life insurance, credit cards, rent and all that bills that I have being head of household,” said Lila Johnson, a 32BJ SEIU member who is attending the State of the Union address as a guest of Sen. Chris Van Hollen. She was furloughed during the recent government shutdown and, because she is a contract worker, is not guaranteed back pay.  “Many of my co-workers are facing eviction, power shut-offs, hunger and even going without lifesaving medications. Instead of acknowledging the impact this shutdown has had on our families, President Trump continues to push for a divisive border wall that the majority of Americans—white, black and brown-- do not want.”

“Now that we have a new House of Representatives, with more members committed to the rights of immigrants, I am hopeful that TPS holders like me will see a permanent legislative solution so we can continue to help our families and support our communities here in the U.S.,” said Gerald Michaud, a 32BJ member who is attending the speech as a guest of Rep. Nydia Velázquez. Michaud, a Haitian native, has had Temporary Protected Status since 2010 and is a wheelchair attendant at LaGuardia airport. “I am proud to accompany Rep. Velázquez, who has been a strong champion for TPS holders, introducing legislation that would let us continue building our lives here. The President needs to see us there and understand that his cruel statements and policies are hurting real people.”

“My patients have enough to worry about. They should be able to focus on their health and their families – not stressing about what harm Washington will bring next. But this isn’t just about my patients – it’s about our friends and family, too,” said Alvin Nadal, a SEIU Local 121 member and registered nurse. “People like my 10-year-old nephew who, when he grows up, could be charged more for his health care because he has asthma if Republicans in Congress have their way.”

“President Trump says good jobs are coming back to our country. However, his administration’s actions tell a different story. Our ability to join a union is under constant attack but working men and women are not backing down,” said Adam Korst, a SEIU Local 503 member in Oregon. “I know union jobs are good jobs so I’ve had several conversations with coworkers about why we must continue to stand together to win higher wages and better working conditions. While extremist groups like the Freedom Foundation continue to attack our rights and encourage us to drop our membership, we’re strengthening our resolve and fighting harder than ever."