Q&A with 2021 Florence Kelley Award Honoree April Verrett

Q. What are your top contributions to consumer advocacy?  

A. During the pandemic, over 184,000 residents and staff died in nursing homes, many of which could have been prevented through better practices and safety protocols to protect residents and workers. These workers and the elderly/vulnerable populations they care for have historically been overlooked – especially so during the pandemic – and without advocates like SEIU Local 2015, they face a high risk of returning to the status quo. 

To promote more transparency in the Long-term care industry, SEIU Local 2015 (the nation’s largest long-term care union representing 400,000 long term caregivers in CA) launched the “Put Care First” campaign to radically upend systemic shortfalls long after the pandemic is over. The campaign aims to overhaul industry regulation through a massive legislative package in CA; create a path to unionization for non-unionized workers; and improve the care and working standards with major contract fights throughout the year.  

Our hope is that these workers – who we were so quick to call “essential” during the pandemic – will continue to be thought of and treated that way long into the future.  

Q. How did you get started with consumer advocacy, and what does it mean to you?   

I have been involved with the labor movement for most of my life. As a young woman, I was exposed to it through my grandmother, who was a union steward for SEIU Local 46 in Chicago, so the union values of organizing, community, and perseverance have been instilled in me as long as I can remember. Now, as the president of SEIU Local 2015, I have been able to fight this fight at the highest levels, and I feel like we are making some significant progress. Our membership is predominantly women, immigrants, and people of color; all communities who have historically been left behind by policymakers and business leaders. Every day, I help fight for safety, justice, and equity for these members, their families, and the people they care for and provide service to (elderly and disabled), and for their communities as a whole. I can’t think of more rewarding work, especially in light of the conditions these workers have been dealing with during the last 18 months of this pandemic.  

Join us on October 12, 2021, for NCL’s annual Trumpeter Awards Dinner, where we will honor April and other exceptional leaders with distinguished records advocating for consumer and worker rights.

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