Massachusetts Home Care Members On the Move

April 19, 2022

The Union welcomes new members and organizes vaccine and PPE clinics for existing members.

Screen Shot 2022-04-19 at 1.13.41 PM.pngMassachusetts members welcomed new home care members into their ranks, when 400 workers from 10 Elara Caring sites voted to join 1199SEIU in mid-March. These new members joined nearly 2,500 Elara members across MA and New York.

Through a free and fair process, agreed between 1199SEIU and Elara Caring, workers were able to decide for themselves in a non-coercive environment, free from intimidation, whether to join the union.

The newest Elara home health members are located in: Lee, Chicopee, Newton, Leominster, Bellingham, New Bedford, Easton, Byfield and Tewksbury.

“It is a very special day for me and my colleagues to finally have a union,” said Rosa Watson, home care worker at Elara Caring, Worcester, MA. “It is a great achievement to now negotiate for the training, pay and benefits that allow us to stay in the field and meet the needs of our clients.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted longstanding issues within the health and long-term care system that remains overstretched and underfunded – devaluing and threatening the health and wellbeing of the workers, who are largely people of color and immigrants, who are caring for our most vulnerable citizens.

Karen Francis, based in Ware, MA, previously worked as a police and fire dispatcher but lost her position during the pandemic. Eight months ago, she returned to home care work, saying: "I wanted to personalize my work. It feels different to care for people in their homes, it was a different way I could help. I've been pro-union all my life.”

In February, thousands of existing home care members who are employed directly by the state-run health provider, Mass Health, were required to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Union swung into action to facilitate this process for these home care members, known as Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) and organized six separate booster clinics in Brockton, Springfield, Lawrence, Boston, New Bedford, and Worcester. In all, the clinics were able to administer hundreds of booster shots.

Organizers also made sure to have the most effective K95 masks available for PCAs to take away in order to stay safe both around their clients and on public transportation.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Union has distributed more than 5 million pieces of PPE, including masks and gloves, and established partnerships across the state to ensure workers have access to vaccinations.

1199 Magazine | March / April 2022