Native of Puerto Rico, Manuela Butler started a new career as a home care worker in 1991, putting behind her nearly 20 years as a seamstress, but not her years as the shop steward in Local 155 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
Manuela Butler became progressively active in the Home Care Employees Union and is now the president of Local 389, DC 1707, AFSCME, because she saw the need to fight for the rights of home care workers, particularly changing the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Home care workers are workers and not companions,” she says, challenging the antiquated law put in to effect in the late 1930s.
Ms. Butler has been working at the Jewish Association Serving the Aging for more than 15 years. “I have found that being a home health aide is more fulfilling because I directly help people who are either sick or aged and need assistance,” she says.
Of great influence on her second career was Bella from Brazil, the home care coordinator caring for her grandmother, “a difficult-to-serve client who needed someone who spoke Spanish.”
Ms. Butler says, “She informed me how to receive my training. I learned how to care for people in their homes so that these clients could maintain their respect and dignity.”
One of her proudest moments as a worker and trade unionist was going to the White House in 2011 to meet President Obama to discuss the fight for overtime pay for home care workers.
In 2012, she joined AFSCME to organize home care workers in Vermont. Furthermore, she says, “I would like to build the largest local within the Council.”
Ms. Butler relishes her visits to Europe and Mexico and seeing how other countries treat their workers.