Guiding Principles: For Partnerships with Unions and Emerging Worker Organizations When Individuals Direct Their Own Services and Supports
(2011, November). Guiding Principles: For Partnerships with Unions and Emerging Worker Organizations When Individuals Direct Their Own Services and Supports.
The historic struggle over the last four decades of people with diverse disabilities of all ages to seek freedom and choice in their lives has led to dramatic advances. This includes meaningful opportunities to control their own supports and services, such as individually controlled planning and budgeting, the ability to hire and fire employees, and engage in creative purchasing. However, most people with disabilities still do not have access to these opportunities.
As disability advocates win the right for control over services and supports, the importance of the direct support workforce increases. Direct support workers are the very foundation for the supports necessary for people with disabilities to access full citizenship and employment opportunities, as well as secure basic civil and human rights. Yet, our society’s devaluing of direct support workers has led in far too many places to a transient workforce with an unlivable wage, poor compensation, and little or no worker voice in the policies that affect them. People who require long-term supports and services must have the right to choose and supervise who supports them, but choice has less meaning if they are not able to locate, hire, and retain competent workers. Thus, people with disabilities and their direct support workers have a compelling reason to combine their strength by working together to advance their mutual interests in defending and expanding supports and services directed by individuals, and improving labor standards to attract and retain skilled workers.
The Guiding Principles presented in this document are the result of more than a year of intense, honest, and detailed discussions over countless hours among leaders from the disability and labor communities. They address areas of extreme importance to both parties. They are intended to secure individuals’ choice and control over services and supports when workers seek to organize a collective voice to enhance wages and benefits.
These Guiding Principles recognize the interests of the disability community and labor can at times conflict and each group has historic grievances borne from lack of understanding or lack of respect. Thus, these Guiding Principles give both communities a framework for working together to advance their mutual interests. While many of the Guiding Principles are specific to union involvement, this document can be used to guide meaningful collaboration in communities in which no formal collective bargaining entity exists in order to build a collaborative voice between the networks of individuals controlling supports and the workers who support them.