ADAPT Locks Horns with Unions

120 arrested in Chicago when ADAPT refused to sign statement supporting institutions

Chicago—Last month, ADAPT confronted Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on their support of reopening the state’s Lincoln Developmental Center institution, and AFSCME’s refusal to endorse any legislation supporting home and community-based services for people with disabilities. AFSCME responded by asking ADAPT to sign a statement supporting institutions authored by AFSCME director Henry Bayer, and when that didn’t happen, Bayer had over 120 people arrested for blocking the doors, elevators and parking lot of the AFSCME building.

“They typed up a statement supporting institutions and asking for money, and then couldn’t understand why we didn’t want to sign it,” said Mike Oxford, Kansas ADAPT organizer. “It’s impossible to negotiate human and civil rights issues with people whose only concern is their own pockets…no matter how many people are warehoused and deprived of their liberty as a result.”

ADAPT has met repeatedly with AFSCME leadership, receiving a commitment from Gerald McEntee, the union’s president, to sign on to legislation that supports home and community-based services and supports for people with disabilities and the elderly. That promise was never kept, and was one of the reasons ADAPT visited the Council 31 offices.

“For an organization that has its roots in the civil rights movement, their treatment of people with disabilities is even more despicable,” said Randy Alexander, Memphis ADAPT Organizer. “The union and its members make a lot of money by advocating to keep people with disabilities and older folks stuck in nursing homes and other institutions instead of being able to live in their own homes like other people. It’s unconscionable that the union fights for workers’ rights at the expense of our rights. In ADAPT, we know that you can’t have one without the other.”

The arrests at AFSCME concluded a week of ADAPT action in Chicago. The week began with a national forum on affordable, accessible, integrated housing, attended by federal officials who heard testimony from people with disabilities about the lack of adequate housing and the discrimination they have experienced when trying to secure a place to live. The forum was followed by three days of action on the streets that included gaining a commitment from Governor Blagojevich for permanent closure of the Lincoln Developmental Center, and assuring ADAPT a seat at the table as Illinois enacts its Money Follows the Person demonstration.

The next ADAPT action will be in Washington, D.C. April 26-May 2, 2008, when ADAPT celebrates its 25th anniversary.

This article is a press release issued by ADAPT, and is reprinted here with permission.

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