People with disabilities joined caregivers, frontline workers, public employees in appeal to governor to end harsh austerity agenda that hurts thousands, as allies prepare to carry message to Springfield for Wednesday State of State address.
CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–February 14, 2017. If Valentine’s Day is about sharing the love, it’s time for Illinois’ governor to step up, say caregivers, the people they serve and public workers who connect those in need with vital services. They all came together on Tuesday morning to hand-deliver valentines to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner with one simple message: Have a heart, governor. Protect vital public services and the providers and residents who depend on those services.
The action was convened by the Alliance for Community Services, a broad coalition of Illinois residents and their caregivers, community groups and public service unions, united to put the “human” back in human services, stop privatization and threats to Medicaid and other public services, and promote accountable, accessible services that Illinois can be proud of.
Susan Aarup — an Alliance member and co-chair of ADAPT — is one of the thousands of Illinois residents who rely on public services to allow her to work, pay taxes, go to school, live independently and play an active role in her community. She spoke at Tuesday’s rally from her wheelchair. “My personal assistants cook for me, clean, do laundry, dress me, get me in and out of bed, bathe me, transfer me from shower to chair — basically anything physical,” she said. “My caregivers make it possible for me to be independent — to go to school, to work and to be a valuable member of society. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, and I can’t do that without a personal assistant. But Rauner’s crazy, heartless overtime rules could literally get my caregivers fired — and destroy my ability to live a productive life in my neighborhood.”
Rauner’s proposed new overtime rules for personal assistants, the caregivers who provide daily assistance to people like Susan, have particularly outraged people with disabilities and others who rely on them. Rauner’s overtime scheme would see PAs banned from caring for clients if they accrue more than three ‘unauthorized’ instances of overtime — essentially forcing these low-wage workers to work for free when their clients need extra help.
“Governor Rauner’s attacks on home care have been relentless,” said Latess Drummer, a home care worker from Chicago and a member of SEIU HCII. “From demanding a wage freeze and elimination of health insurance and training for personal assistants, to his dangerous overtime policy, and his continued budget impasse that now threatens paychecks for caregivers, it’s clear the governor doesn’t value the work we do. How can he expect me to be able to take care of someone else when I cannot even take care of myself?”
Rauner also drew fire for his privatization agenda, his push to close public service offices, his strategy of engendering “assembly-line” bureaucracies and his attacks on caregivers and other low-wage frontline workers — all policies that Alliance members charge increasingly threaten services at a time when Illinois residents from low-income families to the elderly need them most.
“Governor Rauner is starving our state and pushing heartless policies to protect billionaires and banks from paying their fair share for public services,” said Ayo Ma’at, a member of Alliance and president of IMPRUVE. Ayo Maat of IMPRUVE blasted Rauner’s policies. “He’s refused to negotiate a fair budget, refused to come up with fair rules for people with disabilities, and refused to negotiate fair terms for state employees in human services,” she said. “Valentine’s Day is about showing care — and we’re delivering valetines today to someone who clearly needs to learn to care for his residents.”
Rauner’s policies have locked out growing numbers of the state’s neediest residents from programs at a time when their families and communities can least afford barriers to service — while state service workers struggle with growing caseloads and community-based care-givers have wages and benefits that leave them squarely in the economic ranks of their impoverished clients.
“My coworkers and I took jobs at the Illinois Department of Human Services to improve the lives of vulnerable people — including people with disabilities, low-income families, seniors and the homeless,” said frontline caseworker Diane Stoke, president of AFSCME local 2858 and an Alliance member. “Instead, under the rule of billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner, we’ve seen his 1% cronies get richer while millions of ordinary people are left behind. He’s closed community service offices, slashed programs, and reduced staffing levels — turning our service offices into assembly lines where both employees and customers are treated like numbers, not human beings. He refuses to negotiate responsible overtime rules, or a just contract for workers, or a fair budget where the 1% to pay their share of taxes. Instead, he wants to outsource Medicaid and other vital public services into the hands of private companies — churning public dollars into private profits for the rich, instead of channelling those precious resources into the needs of ordinary people. That is heartless — and that is wrong.”
Alliance members headed for the doors of the Thompson Center after their press conference to deliver their valentines to Rauner — armed with banners and signs calling on the governor to have a heart. Police blockaded the building, locking out Alliance supporters — but wheelchair users and their supporters who were already inside were able to drop a banner inside the Thompson Center. It’s message to the governor: “Rauner, don’t be heartless.” Police ultimately relented and allowed a small delegation upstairs to deliver their valentines.
After the action, many Alliance members — including people with disabilities — headed to Union Station to catch a train to Springfield, where they’ll rally Wednesday at Rauner’s State of the State address to carry their Valentine’s Day message forward — and demand that the governor end his heartless attacks on public services and the people who rely on them.
They’re calling on Rauner to:
Drop his harmful overtime policy that threatens people with disabilities and penalizes workers for putting in the hours that their patients need.
Negotiate, don’t dictate — keep public services offices open and serving human needs by returning to the bargining table
Support a FAIR budget where big banks and billionaires pay their fair share, and fully and fairly funds vital human needs that include health care, paratransit/public transit, affordable housing, $15/hr for service workers and properly accessible public aid offices.
Close corporate loopholes that benefit the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.
End the outsourcing of Medicaid public services to greedy private contractors.
Save and improve Medicaid and Medicare, which serves hundreds of thousands of middle and working class Illinois seniors, children and families.
Explore options like a Lasalle Street tax, which is dominated by the nation’s wealthy elites — and where the nation’s richest 20% own more than 90% of stock traded.
Click HERE to see and download high-resolution photos of today’s action (uploads in progress). Click HERE for a short video of two of the Illinois people with disabilities whose independance is threatened by Rauner’s policies.
Members of the Alliance for Community Services include the elderly, low-income families, people with disabilities, frontline caregivers and service workers, and public sector workers. Participating organizations in Tuesday’s action included ADAPT, Northside Action for Justice, AFSCME Local 2806, AFSCME Local 2858, AFSCME Local 3506, IMPRUVE, STOP: Southside Together Organizing for Power, SEIU-Health Care, Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, Democratic Socialists of America, Chicago Jobs with Justice, and the Movement for the 99%.
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