Karlene Whonder, a home care worker and proud SEIU District 1199NE member from New Haven, Conn., provides the essential care her client, a woman with autism and schizophrenia, needs so she can remain living at home.
“I love helping my client and enjoy the feeling of turning my client’s frustration and complications into success and joy. It gives me a sense of peace and happiness as well as accomplishment; knowing that my skills are appreciated. Empathy is my healing balm and I find peace in helping my consumer to heal,” she says.
As a union member, Whonder is aware of the many challenges home care workers face, and how they can find strength in numbers to speak up for better wages, better training and basic benefits like paid sick leave to provide better care.
She’s also aware that home care workers—90 percent of them women and over half of them women of color—are fighting against systemic racism and billionaire-funded special interests that are determined to keep home care workers down.
A rule proposed by the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) targets individual provider home care workers and is designed to stop them from choosing to contribute their own wages directly from their paychecks to pay union membership dues and make payments for basic benefits, like health insurance.
Home care workers have to fight not only for respect and recognition for the hard work they perform, but also against this racist proposal from the Trump administration that seek to silence them, deny them the ability to contribute to their union, and tell them what they can and can’t do with their paychecks.
“Don’t we deserve and shouldn’t we be given respect and allowed to live our lives with dignity? This is just one of the basic rights for every home care worker in this country,” she said. It is incomprehensible that there are anti-worker groups whose only desire is to rob us of our dignity and to malign a specific group of workers whom they see as useless and uneducated,” she said.
Karlene knows home care workers speaking out together are able to fight this kind of political, partisan attack. “My union ensures that I’m treated fairly and equally without favoritism and discrimination. My union ensures that the laws and rules governing the workplace are enforced.”
Whonder remains committed to fighting alongside her union sisters and brothers for quality home care, better working conditions, dignity and respect.