Labor Union and Major Health Care Agency Renew Groundbreaking National Agreement to Protect Workers, Health Care Options, and Critical Community Services

Published 2:18 PM Eastern - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Agreement Hailed as Model of Employer/Employee Agreements that Support American Workers, Enhance Quality Services to Working Families, and Help Rebuild Stronger Economy

CHICAGO -- Labor leaders and home care aides joined Service Employee International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern and Mark Heaney, CEO of Addus HealthCare, Inc. today to sign a renewed national agreement that will further improve home care for seniors and people with disabilities. The new contract now covers 10,000 Addus HealthCare, Inc. workers in 11 states -- California, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Washington. SEIU IS the largest health care union in the country representing more than 1.1 million members in the field, including 400,000 home care workers.

"This renewal is very important to me. Since we established the initial agreement, we have all seen positive results," said Alberta Walker, home care aide of nine years and a vice chair on the executive board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. "Thousands of home care workers have joined SEIU Healthcare as a result. We can lobby more diligently for better federal and state funding to improve the services for our consumers. We can retain and recruit the best home care aides in the industry with better wages and access to health care. And we can help Addus offer the kind of high-quality, in-home care that seniors want," said Walker.

The agreement expands the groundbreaking 2005 agreement between the two organizations which was the first national home care contract in SEIU history. That contract addressed non-economic issues and provided workers with the right to organize nationally, streamlined negotiations, and set higher standards for thousands of home care aides.

"I believe that if you want quality care, you need to make homecare work a quality job. That's why I'm here to applaud the cooperative relationship that has been established between SEIU and Addus," said Retha Landreth, a home care worker from Indiana. "I'm proud to say Addus has worked alongside our union to raise standards."

While the unemployment rate rises, the health care industry continues to thrive -- and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the fastest growing areas in the health care is home health aides. Unfortunately, home health aides are still some of the lowest paid workers. Last year a full-time home health aide made an average of $14,000.

Thirty-six percent of home health aides in this country are uninsured and forty-five percent live below the federal poverty level income.

"These are pretty desperate times for working Americans. Now is the time for businesses and workers to come together and stand up for real change," said SEIU International President Andy Stern. "Agreements like this give workers the freedom to join a union and everyone benefits - workers, employers, and most importantly, care consumers," Stern said. "With our economy in crisis, we're sending a message and standing up for real change that works."

Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, the largest healthcare union in the Midwest which represents 85,000 health care and child care workers, signed the agreement at the event with Addus Healthcare, Inc. CEO Mark Heaney. "The importance of both agreements is the spirit of cooperation between workers and the employer to do the things that promote quality care, raise the quality of life for home care workers," Kelleher said.

"You might not comprehend what this means to a home care aide, but it puts a pep in our step and allows more experienced and dedicated workers to continue to do what we love doing and stay healthy while we do it," Walker said.

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With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers-not just corporations and CEOs-benefit from today's global economy.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana unites more than 85,000 health care, home care, nursing home and child care workers across two states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.

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