in the news

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Sat Feb 27 23:51:55 PST 1999

Hello everyone,

Just for everyone's edification I have worked as an attendant at times in my life, and I was someone who signed the union cards in the Seiu IHSS drive in northern California. I know what goes on with county hiring hall plans under foot. Lots of money to be made by the usual cast of service sector management of businesses. All that sort of business is pretty much the extreme of exploitation all the way around. Pretty much lower and deeper as they say. I am lower and deeper. You don't like it, well I am proud of it.

Marta Russell writes: The unionization of homecare workers is a mixed bag for people with disabilities, with many people, including myself approaching this one a bit cautiously. Mostly the mix has to do with power differentials. How to balance the power between the disabled person who is theoretically the employer (although the county pays the wages, the disabled person hires the worker and directs the tasks) in need of services and the attendant who is the worker?

Doyle Theoretically is the right word here. Every time I hear that boss stuff from some disabled person it makes my blood boil. You think being a boss makes every decision someone who is disabled issues ok? Or perhaps you might think of the situation a little differently. For example:

Marta For example, there are old attitudes which often cause problems for the self determination of the disabled person. Traditional caregivers tend to want to control the disabled person, as they "know what is best." But the independent living movement philosophy is that disabled people know whats best for themselves. Unfortunately many health care workers are still in the old school of thinking in a patronizing way about the people they perform such services for. We've tried to get the union to deal with this patronizing that goes on and hopefully there will be some changes in attitudes to elevate worker's consciousness beyond the "savior" mentality to one that places the relationship on equal footing. Frankly their representatives have been some of the worst in this department.

Doyle Some people are, but you know training helps. And respect helps, and good wages, and a host of things that make for dignity when one works. Patronizing someone is not in everyone, and it is not done away with by making someone a pseudo boss. I have seen people fired quads for speaking their mind. Not for patronizing, but saying something that goes against the grain of someone. What are we supposed to be, robots, automotons? What is to stop the abuse of the worker. I know what that is like. I really know what that is like. About arbitrary and self centered people with little understanding just firing people when the whim hits them. No one says that attendants ought to do bad work, but that Marta you ought to think a little deeper about the process of capitalism that you think is right when a disabled person is the boss, and that makes them "independent". No body is independent to that degree, that is an illusion.

Marta Secondly, it is very important that disabled people be in charge of firing a worker on the spot with no union interference. Many many people on the program have been ripped off by their attendants, had their valubles stolen and been beat up by their attendants. You can well imagine a disabled person would have a hard time stopping someone from stealing from them or from abusing them physically or emotionally. I have heard from people who have said that the only way they could get rid of the abusive worker was to change the locks on the door so that the worker could not get into their home. Initiating a union grievance process would, in some cases, be life threatening to the disabled person who needed to get rid of an abusive attendant.

Doyle When the cops go on strike the fear runs rampant in the wealthier parts of town the streets will run in blood because the anarchy of all against all will happen. The reality is police strikes don't result in anarchy. When nurses go on strike the hospitals don't become morgues. Who is responsible but the bosses. If the boss is the quad who has no money, no resources, and can't speak up, how are they going to fire someone? It will have to be policed by a company/county administration. if someone steals in any job they get fired, but you know the power is in the hands of government agencies. If an attendant beat somebody up they get fired. The abuse of disabled folks won't be solved by anti-union tactics. No strike clauses. Why in the world with so much progressive knowledge Marta do you think hobbling the union is the best answer? You know air flight controllers have airline passengers lives in their hands, was Reagan right for firing all of them for going on strike? How is a union steward different from a worker who comes into your home? Where is the privacy? You give that up to hire someone who is a stranger to come into your home. That shop steward you think has no right to be in your home, is where the worker gets their protection, and where if you thought about it, is the place that you can see problems worked out in a good way. What makes you so anti-union?

Marta We have had to insist on a no strike clause. Can you imagine the disaster of attendants leaving quadriplegics on a walk out? So the muscle to get raises by strikes is impossible due to the nature of the caregiving tasks.

Doyle No you didn't have to insist on that. You if you were part of the process were no different from any other boss. And it ain't so boss, that we don't have a right to a strike. When the time comes and our strength is there you ain't going to stop us from our just demands. I will fight for my rights when I can land a hard blow. I will bide my time, choose when the time is right and fight to win. And I don't give a damn about your opinion about I have no right to strike. If there is a disaster, the bosses are responsible. You better call out your army to keep me in my place, boss.

Martha Hopefully all this will do something for workers, and everyone will be better off, but there is much ground to cover to get there. Illusions are everywhere these days.


Doyle Let us dispense with an illusion here Marta, I am a working class guy. If you want to be my boss I will treat you like a boss. Don't have any illusions about that.

Chuck Grimes Oh, yes, I struggled briefly in solidarity to unionize attendants up here, and then went on strike against the evil cripple hegemony of CIL, then broke the picket line when it turned out that one of the women mechanics in the auto shop who organized the strike was in a righteous lesbian rage over her girlfriend getting fired in the accounting office--the office where, naturally enough co-mingling funds, graft, corruption, fraud and no bookkeeping took place regularly. Pay checks were late as usual no matter what. Where does one stand on these issues? These were some of the dark sides to Alitsky(?) style community organizing. On the other hand, just exactly how CIL differed significantly from Oakland City Hall is a little hard to measure, except everything was just more so downtown.

Doyle Hey Chuck, my wife was on a strike at CIL. She stayed out the whole time. I asked her if she remembered you crossing the picket line, and she said you must have been there before her, when her ex-husband was there. Just to follow up on the no illusions thing I was saying to Marta above, I've been on on strike before, and I have never crossed the lines in my life, and I won't in the future. I have been a strike captain and flying squad member. Mainly to keep people from scabbing. I remember talking to a woman at one strike when I was going door to door to check up who was doing their strike duty. She had been in Watsonville when her husband had been on strike for more than a year, and she and other family members of the strikers had to walk on their knees down the streets to gain attention to their cause. You know people make big sacrifices in the working class. I know a lot of people for a lot of reasons give up and go back in. It becomes very difficult in those circumstances of tension and conflict. I just want you to know where you would find me, on the line with the strike until it is over. That is my version of solidarity. regards, Doyle Saylor

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