Arnulfo de la Cruz, the first Latino leader of the largest union in California, fights for a living wage for home caregivers

Arnulfo De la Cruz, the first Latino president-elect of California’s largest union, SEIU in 2015, is determined to fight for home care and nursing home workers to receive at least a $20-per-hour living wage.

“Almost half of Los Angeles home care providers are of Latino origin; and the majority are immigrants from different countries,” De la Cruz told The opinion.

Explain that they earn an average of $16 an hour, and in January they will earn 50 cents more.

“We are working with Los Angeles County to achieve a phase-in toward $20 for 200,000 home care workers; and the goal is that we can negotiate that minimum wage throughout the state, but also have access to a retirement plan with important benefits”.

De la Cruz recalls that domestic workers take care of the most vulnerable in society, and they do not have a medical or retirement plan.

“We need to give them a living wage that gives them dignity and respect, especially since California’s population is aging, and the silver Tsunami is coming. By 2040, one in 4 Californians will be 65 or older; there will be more than 4 million older adults. So we need to provide them with a good salary and good working conditions.”

Currently, a home care worker earns an average of $19,000 per year.

Arnulfo De la Cruz advocates for home care workers. (Courtesy SEIU 2015)

Along with low wages, he points out that there is a lack of workers at home.

“People would rather go to a cafeteria to work than care for vulnerable people at home, because it’s a lot of work and it doesn’t pay well.”

So your goal as a leader is to ensure that domestic workers are well paid and receive good benefits.

“They are going to play a very important role; and they are already a much larger workforce than police officers, firefighters and other city workers.”

The Service Workers International Union (SEIU-2015) represents more than 420,000 nursing home workers and home care workers.

De la Cruz recounts that she grew up in the farmer movement in the Central Valley of California, since her grandmother Jessie De la Cruz was one of the first female activists and leaders of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).

“My dad worked with César Chávez, and as a child I saw firsthand what farm workers suffered when they were sprayed with pesticides and had very few rights.”

In the fight for $20 an hour wage for home care workers. (Courtesy)

Today, that struggle of the peasants that he watched as a child reminds him of what workers experience in the long term in their homes.

“For the most part they are women of color with no rights, no sick days and vacations.”

De la Cruz has worked for more than 18 years giving a voice to janitors, nursing home workers and those caring for vulnerable people in their homes.

“Also in 2015 I had to be director of the Campaign for Immigration Justice. Unfortunately, immigration reform was not achieved.”

He was also a founder in 2009 of My Family Votes as part of a non-profit effort to promote social and economic justice for the Latino community through increased civic participation.

“We were looking to promote citizenship and voter registration. The concept was to create power through the Latino vote. The result was thousands of new active and registered voter citizens throughout California.”

Arnulfo De la Cruz leads a career

De la Cruz, who will officially assume the position of 2015 SEIU president in January, said he is proud of the work done.

“We were the first state to get the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour; and our union meetings are held in 8 different languages ​​with the goal of removing barriers to racial justice.”

De la Cruz, born in Oxnard, California during a strike by lemon workers, replaces April Verret, who will now be the secretary-treasurer of the national SEIU.

Joining De la Cruz is Carmen Roberts, who will be the 2015 SEIU vice president, and worked as a homemaker. She will also be the first Vice President Blanca Carias, who will be the first monolingual Spanish speaker in office.