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“We Just Want To Be Appreciated” - 100 Black Women Vote To Unionize At Warminster Rehab Center Outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Published Tuesday, June 30, 2020
by Juliana Feliciano Reyes/The Philadelphia Inquirer
“We Just Want To Be Appreciated” - 100 Black Women Vote To Unionize At Warminster Rehab Center Outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(WARMINSTER, PENNSYLVANIA) - The early months of the Coronavirus lockdown were tough on the more than 100 Aides employed at Delaware Valley Residential Care.

The aides, Black Women making $11 an hour caring for patients with traumatic brain injuries at the Residential Rehab Center in Warminster near Philadelphia, struggled with child care as day cares and schools shut down.

Those working the night shift were stuck as public transportation service slowed.

If they missed the last bus back to Philadelphia, which left 15 minutes after their shift ended at 11 p.m., they’d be stranded in the suburbs or have to pay for an Uber.

They were risking their health every day to work during the pandemic, yet they felt like their employer was barely accommodating them - the people who made the facility run.

“The Residential Aides ‘get treated like the bottom of the totem pole,’” said Residential Care Aide Shakita Shaw. “But ‘it’s because of us that this company is even open.’”

Now, as the city eases Coronavirus restrictions, the Workers are hoping things might change, thanks to a new development: They recently voted to Unionize with American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District 1199c - a Union that represents 13,000 Health Care Service Workers.

The successful campaign - run by a predominantly Black Union - comes at a time of Worker uprisings and Black Lives Matter protests that sometimes intersect.

Black lives matter at work, too, Organizers have said.

The vote, counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) via Zoom video conference, was 27-to-1. 

About 40 Workers cast mail-in ballots, but 10 were voided because they lacked signatures and five were challenged because the employer said those Workers were no longer employed at the facility.

Shaw, a 30-year-old single mother of three and a leader of the campaign, said she and her Co-Workers wanted to Unionize because of seemingly arbitrary disciplinary procedures, unequal pay, and a lack of respect on the job.

“We ‘go above and beyond and it seems like they don’t appreciate us,’” she said. “We ‘just want to be appreciated.’”

The Union Campaign, which started before the city went into lockdown mid-March and culminated in 1199c’s first new Unit amid the Coronavirus, reveals a window into the challenges and opportunities for Union Organizing during a pandemic.

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