For Immediate Release

ADAPT logo: universal access symbol breaking a chain overhead; text: FREE OUR PEOPLE! May 15, 2002
For more information, contact:
Bob Kafka (512) 431-4085 cell
Marsha Katz (406) 544-9504 cell

Unions Agree to Meet then Call ADAPTthe best Organizers They've Seen

(Washington, D.C.) After years of tension between the disability rights community and the nation's unions, ADAPTscored a historic meeting with top union officials to begin working together to support people in the community while also assuring their attendants a living wage. And it all happened in the blink of an eye after ADAPTblocked access to the headquarters of three of the nation's largest unions, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). 

AFL-CIO offices were hit simultaneously with those of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In a matter of minutes, top officials at all sites began negotiating with ADAPT, and quickly agreed to providing written commitment for meetings within 60 days. Gerald W. McEntee, President of AFSCME, and who also serves on the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, committed to personally arrange a meeting before July 14 with ADAPTrepresentatives, himself, John J. Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, and Andrew Stern, International President of the SEIU. 

"ADAPT shares the unions' goal of a living wage for the workers who assist us," said Bob Kafka, National ADAPTOrganizer from Texas. "That only increases the chances we will get better care from more qualified assistants, who will remain in their jobs over time. What we will not accept, though, is holding people with disabilities hostage in nursing homes and institutions to protect jobs for unionized employees. ADAPT's strong message to union officials has been heard, and now we can work on solutions to our mutual problems." 

In a written letter of commitment from the AFL-CIO, William Samuel, Director of Legislation, wrote that, "The AFL-CIO supports the effort to move care for people with disabilities into the communities where they live and work. Allowing then to retain their independence, while getting care and services in the most appropriate setting." He concluded the letter with, "Please be assured that we will work with the bill sponsors, Senator Harkin and Representative Davis, and the disability community to pass a bill that recognizes the needs and dignity of both people with disabilities and the workers who care for them." 

"We really did make history today,"said Linda Anthony, ADAPTOrganizer from Pennsylvania. The unions of America are so powerful, and in the past they have been a significant part of the problem, not wanting institutions to close because their members faced job loss. At the AFL-CIO we talked to the Civil Rights Director and his assistant, and they immediately got the civil rights implications of that former position. Given that the unions are the experts on organizing, it felt really good on our way out when they told us that our action and strategies against them were the best organizing they had ever seen!" 

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54 million Americans have some level of disability, 26 million people have a severe disability. [Current Population Reports. U.S. Department of Commerce - Census Bureau. Aug. 1997 p. 70-61]

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