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Labor unions opening offices in El Centro by hosting a block party

December 07, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Two labor unions will open offices in the Imperial Valley on Saturday with a block party in downtown El Centro, and one of the offices has its eyes on the expected $50 million in yearly water transfer revenues.

The AFL-CIO and the United Domestic Workers of America Union will open a joint office at 111 N. Fifth St.

Norma Sierra, AFL-CIO community liaison, said the union is coming to town to have visibility here, participate in community activities, become involved in local schools, organize workers, become involved in labor contract negotiations, participate in local decision-making and policy-making and become involved in the discussions and distribution of the Imperial Irrigation District/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer revenues.

"That's the big one," Sierra said.

Isaac Nuru, UDW director of organizing and membership services, said the union seeks to service local home-care workers, that is, those who take care of the elderly, the sick, the disabled.

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"Basically, the shut-ins," he said, adding the only other alternative is for such people to be placed in institutions. "By staying in their homes they can get better service."

Nuru said there are about 2,000 home-care workers in the Imperial Valley and that under a recently passed state law the county Board of Supervisors is developing an ordinance that will allow the workers to organize.

According to the UDW's Web site — www.udwa.org — the union founded in San Diego in 1979 to organize domestic workers, home attendants and in-home care workers for collective bargaining representation.

"Inspired by Cesar Chavez, who recruited and trained its leaders and planted in them the seed to build the domestic workers movement, UDW is the first known labor union founded exclusively to represent domestics and other home care workers," the Web site states. "With its founding, UDW became only the third union in American labor history to be founded by blacks or Latinos. The Sleeping Car Porters Union by A. Phillip Randolph and the United Farm Workers Union by Cesar Chavez were the first two such history-making efforts."

UDW has focused on in-home supportive services home attendants who clean, cook and provide domestic chores and personal care services to the elderly, blind, frail and disabled who are too sick, too old or too disabled to care for themselves. California provides these services to income-eligible individuals to keep them safely in their own homes. The IHSS program is designed to be a cost-effective, more personal, alternative to nursing homes.

The AFL-CIO's Web site — www.aflcio.org — says its mission is "to bring social and economic justice to the nation by enabling working people to have a voice on the job, in government, in a changing global economy and in their communities."

The AFL-CIO represents more than 13 million workers nationwide. It was formed in 1955 by the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Sixty-four unions make up the membership of the AFL-CIO.

The block party is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Refreshments will be available.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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