SEIU 1021 Organizing: Helping Central Valley DD workers get a union

With the help of the SEIU 1021 Organizing Department, workers at Developmental Disabilities Service Organization (DDSO) are rapidly moving forward with organizing a union at their agency. In a matter of two weeks, DDSO workers made a significant push with organizers and members of the local’s Reserve Organizing Corp (see Calendar for upcoming ROC trainings) to greatly exceed the support needed to file for an election through the National Labor Relations Board.

More than 40 DDSO workers showed up for the first general union meeting to get information, meet co-workers, share experiences and talk about the steps for change. Ballots will be mailed on March 18 and the vote count will take place on April 4.

DDSO is a comprehensive, Sacramento-based agency that provides a range of developmental disability services for people throughout the Sacramento and Stockton areas. Program participants gain self-advocacy, community living, physical mobility, independent living, communication, volunteerism and vocational skills. Workers’ main goal is to enable clients to live actively integrated into the community through social events and volunteerism.

The state of DD services

Throughout California, developmental disability services continue to fall short, despite the passage of the Lanterman Act of 1969, which states that California, “accepts responsibility for persons with developmental disabilities and an obligation to them which it must discharge.”

The law’s intent was to provide individuals in need of developmental disabilities services with adequate resources to remain productive, active members of society; but the mechanisms to ensure the long-term sustainability of those resources were not considered.

Research by the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA), which administers DD services for 265,000 Californians, found that California ranks 34th among the states — 16 percent below the national average — in terms of funding and community and institutional services.

Workers within developmental disability services “want things to be better for their students and for the staff that provide services, said Suzanne Tyler, a Developmental Service Program Instructor at DDSO. “We all believe that DDSO is a great program, but we also know that working together through our union, we can make it better.”

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