San Francisco Holds Care Congress
On August 20, 2011, over 500 long-term care workers, older adults, people with disabilities, family members, political leaders and broad array of activists packed San Francisco’s Mission High School for the regional launch of Caring Across Generations, a movement to create millions of new care jobs and protect the social safety net from budget cuts at a time when America’s long-term care needs are skyrocketing.
America’s “age wave” begins this year, with one adult turning 65 every eight seconds. Caring Across Generations meets this moment by aiming to protect what we have—Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security—while creating what we need: two million new care jobs, training and protection for workers, new paths to citizenship for immigrant workers, and measures to make care more affordable for struggling families.
The San Francisco Bay Area “Care Congress” was a lively grassroots town-hall meeting featuring speakers, video presentations, small and large group dialogue, dinner, and an evening cultural program. The event was organized by a broad coalition of organizations representing care workers, seniors, people with disabilities and their allies including Jobs with Justice San Francisco, California Domestic Workers Coalition, Hand in Hand, Senior Action Network, Planning for Elders, Silicon Valley Independent Living Resource Center, San Francisco Labor Council, SEIU Local 1021, Chinese Progressive Association, Filipino Community Center and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services.
The day kicked off with California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano speaking on a panel highlighting this crucial moment for AB 889, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would provide California domestic workers labor protections that other workers enjoy. Next, San Francisco Supervisor, Eric Mar, spoke about prioritizing the City's commitment to provide the aging population better support. He promised to follow up assertively at City Hall on Care Congress issues. Others that spoke at the event include San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, Veronica Lozano of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, senior and immigrant rights advocate Vera Haile, disability community activists Nicole Brown-Booker and Jessica Lehman and Shaw San Liu, lead organizer with the Progressive Workers Alliance.
Speakers were followed by small group discussions at the over forty tables set up in the hall. Each table had between eight and ten participants, a mix of employers, domestic workers, and elder or disabled recipients. Donna Wilmott of Planning for Elders explained that a theme of her table's discussion was that the basis of these very personal human relationships — one where caregivers could feel they were providing the best care, and elders, children, or people with disabilities could receive the best care possible — was caring, concern, love, and mutual respect. “One person kept repeating, ‘love and caring are the foundations of this kind of work.’”
Another current priority for Jobs with Justice San Francisco is the Making Change at WalMart Campaign. In a show of solidarity and following up on discussions that began at the JWJ National Conference, OUR WalMart members attended the Care Congress and spoke at the beginning of the cultural program. Given that WalMart associates are currently organizing at WalMart, their support of workers organizing in a different sector is particularly powerful and a testament to JWJ’s ability to bring workers and allies together across sectors.
Caring Across Generations was launched in July at a National Care Congress in Washington, D.C. with Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and more than 700 supporters. Over the next 12 months, the campaign will hold local and regional Care Congresses in more than 15 other cities around the country.