Lola Smallwood Cuevas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson attended the SEIU 2015 rally. (Courtesy photo)

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 2015, representing over 400,000 nursing home and home care workers, gathered in front of the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration on April 19,  to advocate for higher pay and better working standards for their members. Hundreds of workers showed up to shout the rallying cry for the day, “It’s time for $20!”

“The cost of living is going up and these workers’ wages are staying the same,” said SEIU Executive Vice-President Dereck Smith.

“These workers have to make a choice whether to keep a roof over their heads or put food on the table. They need to be respected, protected, and paid, $20 an hour is the least they can do.”

The average In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) provider makes less than $20 an hour with no benefits.

During the event, the most poignant testimonials came from workers and from those receiving services. They spoke about how necessary the work is, and how their work helps people navigate their lives from daily care for some, to the moment of transition for others.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson stepped to the podium and said, “In the next few months, we are going to fight, and fight some more and until the pay is up to $20. Some people are going to say it can’t be done, that the County doesn’t have the money, that it doesn’t check out. What doesn’t check out is getting paid poverty wages for doing the most important work that there is.”

Annetta Wells, SEIU 2015 statewide deputy political director, inspired the SEIU members, who covered the lawn in purple t-shirts, waving signs, and ringing cowbells in agreement with L.A.’s elected officials, community service providers, and labor representatives supporting their cause.

Ron Herrera of the L.A. County Federation of Labor pointed out, “To our left, we have the Board of Supervisors, behind me we have City Hall, in front of me we have labor town, we have union town, we have L.A. Union. Let them hear what we want!”

In addition to Harris-Dawson and Herrera, attendees included State Senate District 28 Candidate Lola Smallwood Cuevas and Alberto Retana, CEO of Community Coalition.

Retana revved up the crowd by saying, “Not $18.50, not $19.25, not $19.99 we’re talking about $20 and nothing less. Your fight is our fight, your wage is our wage, your dignity is our dignity!”