During the first-ever Home Care Workers Rising Summit, four individuals — three home care workers and one care consumer — will be recognized for their dedication and commitment to providing quality care and improving the lives of both care workers and care consumers.
Karen Harlan and Michael Richards, Moberly, MO
Caregiver Champion Award Winners
For tireless activism to improve the lives of care workers and their clients
Karen Harlan of Moberly, MO, has been providing home care for more than 15 years, and has been a caregiver since she was a “candy striper” at a local Veterans Administration hospital. She now has three clients. One of them, a young person with autism, was afraid to even leave the house when Karen first started working with him. With Karen’s persistent encouragement, they are able to go on daily five-mile walks together.
She is committed to her clients and to improving home care by winning a greater voice for attendants. As a member of the contract bargaining team of the Missouri Home Care Union, Karen is active in enlisting the support of her community for better home care. Essential to strengthening home care is making it pay enough so it is a job attendants can count on, so that consumers know they can count on their attendants in the future.
“I work seven days a week because my clients depend on me. My work preserves the dignity of people in my community and keeps them out of costly nursing home,” Karen said.
At one point in his life, Michael Richards was unable to walk, speak, or even write his name. He became a client in Missouri’s Consumer Directed Services program and his life turned around, in large part because of his attendant, Karen Harlan.
Today he is active in his church and community in Moberly, MO and a Cub Scout den leader. “Because of Karen,” he said, “I no longer just look at life through my window. I’m out living it.”
He has gone to great lengths to support Missouri’s home care program and the attendants who make it possible. He has testified before the State Legislature and reached out to the public at community meetings, even the state fair, to get the message out that home care is important and that the attendants who provide it must be supported.
Speaking at a recent statewide meeting of attendants and consumers, Michael told the audience: “The attendants’ fight is our fight. Attendants have our back every day, and we’ve got theirs, too.”
Emily Uy, Los Angeles, CA
Caregiver of the Year Award Winner
For outstanding dedication to providing quality care
A single mother, Emily Uy came to the United States in 2007, leaving behind two kids to seek out an economic opportunity that would allow her to send money home to her family and send her kids to school.
She has been a caregiver for six years and has taken on some of the most heart-wrenching care work with compassion, understanding, and patience. Her clients have included stroke survivors, ALS patients and those in hospice.
Emily is an active member of the Association of Filipino Workers (AFW), an organizing program of the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), which is itself a member organization of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA).
Said Emily: “I’m proud of being a caregiver because I know my job is actually extending the lives of our consumers or patient by providing them tender, loving, and quality care. I am fighting for dignity and respect for caregivers because our job is noble and should be valued.”
Flora Johnson, Chicago, IL
Evelyn Coke Lifetime Achievement Award winner
For playing an important role in the care worker movement
Flora Johnson has been a leader for 12 years with the home care worker union in Chicago. She has logged more than 250 union activities, from rallies to actions to negotiations, and everything in between. She serves as Chair of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana/Kansas/Missouri Executive Board, and was the national spokesperson for home care workers during Harris v. Quinn.
In addition to her activism, Flora, who’s now 81 years strong, has also been a personal care attendant for 15 years for her son Kenneth, who was born with cerebral palsy, and she has lobbied for accessible services for people with disabilities.
“Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour. I know from experience that we are stronger together,” Flora said.