Aparna Kumar,

Issued July 27, 2022

SEIU leaders and workers press elected leaders to urgently address care and climate crises

WASHINGTON – As Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Republicans block urgently needed federal investments to address our nation’s growing care and climate crises, SEIU’s 2 million members and essential workers are continuing the fight – calling for executive action and taking their demands to the polls.

“Working people have mobilized to demand real action to solve the climate and caregiving crises,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “These twin priorities impact everyone in this country and the solutions are massively popular. As a nation, we cannot continue to prioritize short-term corporate profits over a secure and sustainable future for all of us.”

As Congress has stalled, the Black, Latina, Asian Pacific Islander, Indigenous and immigrant women who make up the majority of the care workforce have been squeezed between rising prices and stagnant, poverty wages. With too few workers willing to fill these jobs with challenging conditions and poor benefits, Americans of all backgrounds are struggling to access and pay for necessary care for their loved ones, including seniors, children and family members with disabilities.

When he came into office, President Biden laid out an ambitious plan for an equitable recovery from the pandemic, including an historic investment to turn care jobs into good-paying, union jobs and to make care more affordable to those who need it. An investment in home care was one of the most popular aspects of President Biden’s economic plan, with 81 percent of U.S. voters across both parties expressing their support. Rather than coming to the table to support building our nation’s care system, Republicans in Congress took every opportunity to torpedo progress.

“Care work is a cornerstone of our economy as it enables all other work—especially for women, on whom the burden of caregiving often falls,” said April Verrett, the newly elected Secretary Treasurer of SEIU and the leader of the nation’s largest long-term care union, the statewide SEIU Local 2015 in California. “Failing to invest in care now would undermine hard-won progress for women as the silver tsunami hits our nation without affordable care options for families. If we don’t invest to make care jobs into good jobs capable of supporting a family, care will not be there when we all need it. It’s that simple.”

Over the past year, thousands of care workers and care consumers participated in lobby visits, town hall discussions, rallies and advocacy actions in Washington, in their home states and online to share their experience and make the case for federal investment. SEIU home care workers and not-yet union leaders are planning more actions in coming months to draw attention to the crisis, including a candidate town hall and door-to-door voter outreach in Atlanta in August.

“After serving our communities tirelessly throughout the pandemic without living wages and basic benefits like paid sick leave and PPE, workers like me are rejecting a status quo that never worked for us,” Latonya Allen, a home care worker from Stockbridge, GA, said. “We are asking every elected leader and candidate to state their plan for protecting workers during this economic and environmental crisis. They’ll see that they can’t take our votes for granted.”

Our elected leaders can no longer stall on taking action to address the nation’s climate crisis, leaving millions of Americans struggling with the consequences of scorching temperatures and rising prices caused by polluting and profiteering corporations.

“Climate change is a public health emergency,” said SEIU 1991 member Caitlin MacLaren, a registered nurse living in Miami. “I worry about my patients and my coworkers if Congress doesn’t take action. Extreme temperatures mean more hospitals seeing an influx of climate-sensitive diseases such as asthma flare ups, heart failure exacerbations and heat stroke. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is that public health is necessary for us to lead full lives and have a functioning economy. We need elected leaders to treat this like the emergency that it is.”

Seeing these stakes, care workers, SEIU members and others fighting for the right to join unions are mobilizing to elect leaders who will protect all workers, reign in corporate power, and safeguard our planet for future generations. In addition to electoral efforts, workers are urging elected leaders to use every power of government, including executive action by the President, to spur progress and halt the erosion of our rights, from reproductive rights to immigrant rights.