This International Women’s History Day We Celebrate Our Founding Sisters
Organizing long term care workers was no easy task, but today we are over 370,000 workers strong
For far too long women were unjustly treated as second class citizens. Until the turn of the 20th century, women were not allowed to vote, work, or to get an education. And occupations which are traditionally considered female or domestic labor — such as home care — have yet to be given the respect, pay, or dignity that they deserve.
Over the years, valiant women have stood up against injustice and have paved the way to a more fair nation that accepts and understands the value of a woman’s work, mind, and politics. Today, the over 370,000 home care and nursing home workers who now make up SEIU Local 2015 are part of this broader struggle for equality, dignity, and respect.
Our story begins in the late 1980s, women who made up the home care workers of Los Angeles began organizing each other. They started out as a diverse group of a couple dozen in Los Angeles as Local 434B, then hundreds throughout LA and San Bernardino counties, and today they are made up of hundreds of thousands home care and nursing home workers throughout California.
This solidarity has allowed home care workers to overcome intransigence of politicians and was the largest organizing victory since workers at Ford’s River Rouge plant joined the United Auto Workers in 1941. This achievement by a largely low wage, ethnically diverse, female, and spread out workforce, has been a remarkable accomplishment.
The women who made up Local 434B showed the power that standing in numbers could have, and on International Women’s Day, it is important to remember and reflect on the role that home care organizing had on improving wages and working conditions for women across California.
SEIU Local 2015 has continued the selfless spirit that these home care workers showed and we’ve consistently fought to win not just for our members but for all women and all Californians. For example, the membership of SEIU Local 2015 put California on the road to a $15 an hour minimum wage — a huge boost to the wages of women and all low-paid workers in California — and continues to pave the way for a respected, robust long term care system which is primarily made up of working women.
While we still have so far to go, the beacon of light, hope, and tenacity of these women in the late 80s will continue to light the way for the long term care workers of tomorrow.