UDW is a union for homecare workers, by homecare workers. We look after loved ones in our families, or we care for community members who need our assistance. Many of us left paid, full-time jobs to do this work, and we frequently work more hours than we are paid for. Our union allows us to fight for better working conditions collectively and, as a result, we have experienced many victories for homecare over the past several decades, starting with the creation of California’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS) in 1973.
The creation of IHSS was a milestone in the disability rights movement. Before IHSS, those with long-term care needs had few options besides nursing homes and state institutions. People with disabilities, motivated by a desire for independence and control of their own services and assistance, fought for a broader, client-directed homecare program. After a long struggle, Governor Ronald Reagan signed AB 134 in 1973, which created the program we now know as IHSS.
The creation of the IHSS program was just the first step to improve quality of life for Californians with disabilities, the sick and the elderly. Many challenges remained: providers made minimum wage and did not have health benefits; clients had a hard time finding caregivers because turnover was high.
During this same time period, homecare providers were working alongside disability activists and organizing for better working conditions. In 1977, followers of Cesar Chavez formed an organizing committee that would later become the United Domestic Workers of America, the third union in the country to be founded by people of color.
In the 1980s and 90s, advocates, clients, and homecare providers worked together to build a better program. During this time, caregivers received our first-ever cost-of-living wage increase, and the IHSS Public Authorities were formed, improving the delivery of services in the program and making them consistent throughout the state. In 1994, we affiliated with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), giving California homecare workers a more far-reaching and powerful voice.
The late 90s and early 2000s saw several victories for homecare. UDW wrote, sponsored, and enacted landmark legislation (AB 1682) requiring every county to establish an IHSS employer of record and guaranteeing 200,000 IHSS homecare workers the right to collective bargaining. This legislation also won rights for IHSS clients: they were now able to represent themselves on IHSS Advisory Committees and train their own homecare providers. In 2000, UDW joined forces with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to win $107 million new state dollars and an additional $150 million in federal funds to cover pay increases and health insurance for homecare workers.
State budget trouble and politics at its worst led to tough times in the mid-2000s. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, elected in 2003, slashed funding for the program and tried to stop relatives from caring for their loved ones through IHSS. As part of the campaign to gut homecare, the governor and his allies falsely claimed there was massive fraud in the program. But clients and providers pushed back together to protect the dignity of our loved ones and neighbors, and the proposed cuts were blocked.
The attacks on IHSS united providers, clients, and our allies like never before. We fought side-by-side, and continue to work towards building a better future. In 2013, client and provider organizations reached a settlement agreement in three lawsuits related to IHSS cuts. With this agreement and a better economic outlook, we can move forward together to restore the homecare program.
In 2015, the California United Homecare Workers (CUHW) announced that it would merge with United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) of SEIU and the United Domestic Workers (UDW) of AFSCME in order to maximize resources and better serve homecare providers. IHSS providers in 11 additional California counties are now being serviced by UDW.
We are committed to:
- Respect and dignity for Californians with disabilities, the sick, and the elderly.
- Fair pay and respect for homecare providers.
- Full funding for life-saving programs like IHSS.