Cathy Cranston: workers’ rights, disability rights

For about a decade, ADAPT of Texas has sought to engage direct care workers in the fight for community services. Cathy Cranston is an organizer with ADAPT of Texas and, since 2005, also an organizer of the Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT). In October 2011, as part of the oral history training offered by ADAPT and Wire Cutter, Luz Guerra and Erin Park Markert interviewed Cathy. She explained that PACT launches lobbying campaigns before each state legislative session. Even when PACT has not succeeded in the Texas Legislature, it has sometimes won what it sought later, in state agency rulemaking.

PACT, which is a project of ADAPT, serves both workers and clients by seeking “equal work for equal pay.” Cranston explains.

What we found was that there was a wage disparity within people working within different home and community-based programs… Quite often the personal attendants do the same tasks, but . . . there was even a two-dollar difference in wage between working in the community versus working within state institutions or the nursing facilities..

The rights of workers are inextricably tied to the rights of people with disabilities. State employee unions have resisted the closing of large institutions precisely because the jobs providing services to people in community settings come with very low wages and no health insurance or other benefits. PACT and ADAPT resist the cruel pressure to pit workers and clients against one another.

Read the entire interview here, and thank you, Cathy, Luz, and Erin.

Copyright 2011 Cathy Cranston, used with permission

Welcome new oral history & social justice participants…

The challenge of starting a new project is that it takes a while to get the word out; the happy news is that as people find out what is happening, participation grows. In the last couple of weeks several new people have joined the Listen for a change: oral history & social justice workshop. Welcome three new participants from ADAPT: Travis Hoelscher, Eric Clow, and Heiwa Salowitz; as well as Cynthia Waide of Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, Shannon Elizondo, journalist Lindsay Patterson, and Sandy Graham of the Texas Center for Disability Studies.

The challenging news is that my carefully designed syllabus is no longer evident (we recap what we’ve been doing each week, as though we’d planned a “drop in anytime” series); the happy news is that each week we’re invigorated with new energy and ideas. And who ever believed that learning was a linear process, anyway?

It’s so interesting to see the (unplanned) overlap and commonalities in interests. Heiwa has worked in prisoner rights issues, while Diana Claitor and Erica Surprenant work to reform Texas county jails. Both Rocío Villalobos and Matthew Gossage are advocates for immigrants incarcerated in the former federal prison in Hutto. Rachel Szemborski, graduate student in the UT School of Social Work, interns this semester with the Texas Civil Rights Project to assist immigrant survivors of domestic violence obtain legal permanent residence (and ultimately U.S. citizenship). Under provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), people who have been abused by U.S.citizen or legal permanent resident spouses or partners, may seek immigration relief independent of the partners or spouses who’ve abused them, threatening that reporting the abuse would result in exposure, separation from children, and deportation. Immigrants, at least those from Mexico and Central America, and their advocates understand the connection between economic devastation in their home countries and immigration for survival. That’s why it makes so much sense for our group to make common cause with Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, which works with Mexican women labor activists.

Heiwa explained this week that he’d often felt frustrated that other ostensible social justice activists failed to see the connection between, for instance, prisoners’ rights and those of people with disabilities, many of whom also long for freedom outside of institutions. Even at ADAPT, with all its expertise in disability, we are learning about how to make the workshop more accessible and inclusive by attending to the needs of people with chemical sensitivities (see earlier posts).

The beauty of this workshop series is that as we learn and share skills, we’re also learning about discrete but intimately connected aspects of social justice. Just being in the same big room together (thank you, ADAPT!), we’re breaking down barriers.

We share the air (please be considerate)

(a reminder…)

To prevent HARM to people who suffer from MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITIES, we ask that you REFRAIN from the use of scented products.

PLEASE DO NOT USE SCENTED deodorant, aftershave, hair products, cologne, shampoo, body lotions, soap, FABRIC SOFTENER, DRYER SHEETS laundry detergent or other scented personal care and cleaning products as they release chemicals WHICH HARM people and other living things….

The above message came to me as a pretty flyer from our friend, colleague, and teacher Luz Guerra…I don’t yet know how to upload PDFs to Wire Cutter so for now I’ve just copied the text.

Thank you for helping to make our workshops on oral history & social justice safe for & accessible to people with chemical sensitivities.