Officials at two large labor unions announced Monday that they would end a long-running battle over who should represent thousands of low-wage workers caring for the elderly and young children in California.
As part of a two-year national pact, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union agreed not to interfere with the other union’s bargaining agreements.
AFSCME agreed to pull petitions the union had filed aimed at decertifying SEIU locals, and SEIU said it would cease its attempted raids on AFSCME’s membership.
In California, SEIU already represents the majority of these workers -- about 160,000 caregivers working in private houses, nursing homes, day-care centers and preschools.
AFSCME represents about 60,000 such workers.
The two unions also agreed to collaborate in creating a third union to represent home-care workers, the California United Homecare Workers Union, which would pursue the roughly 25,000 caregivers currently unrepresented by either union.
The pact also covers caregivers the two unions represent in Pennsylvania.
Historically, these home-care workers often earned little above minimum wage and had no healthcare benefits.
Caregivers in California now represented by SEIU earn close to $9 an hour and have health insurance.
Both the service employees and the state, county and municipal employees, a part of the AFL-CIO, have worked hard to organize this workforce, creating tensions that boiled to the surface over the summer when SEIU withdrew from the AFL-CIO and joined forces with three other unions to form the Change to Win Coalition, representing nearly 6 million workers. That group holds its first convention next week in St. Louis.
Ken Jacobs, deputy chairman of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, said one of the big questions coming out of the SEIU’s withdrawal from the federation was whether the unions, nationally and in California, would be able to work together or would deploy their resources in jurisdictional battles.
“Thus far the main labor councils have stayed together,” he said. “We’ve seen a pretty high level of unity.”