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The Direct Care Movement Loses Leonila Vega

NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last week, the movement to improve direct care jobs lost a visionary leader and fierce advocate with the passing of Leonila Vega. For the past 14 months, Ms. Vega had been battling cancer. She served as executive director for the Direct Care Alliance (DCA) since 2007, establishing the organization as the national advocacy voice of direct care workers. In this role, she fought for respect for direct care workers and to ensure that their voices are heard. 

Born in Mexico, Ms. Vega came to the United States after high school to pursue an education. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine and went on to the University of Wisconsin, where she earned a law degree.

After realizing her American dream, she dedicated herself to helping others—whether born here or abroad—to experience that dream as well. She first did this in Wisconsin, as a disability and elder rights law attorney and later with SEIU.

Ms. Vega's desire to empower direct care workers brought her to DCA. Inspired by the amazing work done by these largely invisible workers, she led DCA to increase their visibility through leadership training, organizing, and worker-led advocacy.

In her five years at DCA, she developed several campaigns and programs, including the Voices Institute Leadership Training program and the Personal Care and Support Credential, that gave voice to direct care workers. Her leadership in the fight to win basic labor rights for these workers saw significant progress when President Obama announced proposed regulations last December to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. Although she did not live to see this campaign won, the many direct care workers she trained to lead the movement ensure that inspired advocates will continue to carry this effort forward.

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