By Vicki Bickford, a home care worker and member leader of SEIU 775
In my long life I've had a lot of jobs: secretary, production coordinator, bartender, legal transcriptionist and more, but none of them really mattered to my heart. That changed when I became a home care worker in 2011.
I'm 63 years old and now have a career that shows me the value of and compassion for each and every person I meet. Currently, I’m taking care of an elderly gentleman who has faced all kinds of health issues. He’s a wonderful person, which makes the hard work of looking after someone else a little easier.
Even though I’ve always known home care work is essential, it didn’t take long for me to realize that our society doesn’t value it the same way. We play such an important role caring for the elderly and people with disabilities, yet we are underpaid and disrespected, largely because our profession is predominantly women and women of color.
To change this, we started organizing in our union. By standing together, we won a pay increase to $17 an hour, a full healthcare plan, including dental and vision, for $25 a month, paid sick days and continuing education opportunities.
Uniting with other Black, white, brown and Asian caregivers in our union taught me how connected our fight for economic justice is to the fight for racial justice. I realized that as white people, we don’t always see the racism that's inherent in our society. I don’t want to fall into that trap or let injustice continue because of my inaction. That’s why I actively support the movement for Black lives. Uniting also showed me the power we have when we stand up together.
Now, in this critical moment for our country, we have to bring that strength and unity to the ballot box. I’ve been battling depression since President Trump took office, but I know things can be different. When we stand up together, we can make things better. We can grow the American middle class with family-sustaining jobs. I hope you’ll stand up with me and vote this November.