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Founding Women: Evelyn Hawks

By January 27, 2021News

As CLTCEC marks its 20th anniversary, we celebrate the courageous women who founded the training center

Before 1999, caregivers made up an invisible workforce. They worked with low pay, had no benefits, no protections. When a group of strong, courageous women organized home care workers in Los Angeles County to join SEIU in 1999, they faced obstacle after obstacle. But they fought. Even back then, they already knew caregivers needed three crucial things: livable wages, benefits, and training. Because of these women’s tenacity, home care workers became recognized as a formidable workforce. And because of the women’s vision, we can now provide crucial training that makes a difference in caregivers’ lives and in the people for whom they provide care.

These are the stories of some of those women.

Evelyn Hawks: Changed the world for the better

In many ways, Evelyn Hawks retains all the grace of a Southern belle. She peppers her conversation with “darling” and is unfailingly polite. But there is steel behind her gentility. Hawkes, now in her 80s, was born and raised in North Carolina, but moved to California in 1960. It is here that she stepped up to fight for the rights of home care workers.

In the 1990s, Hawks organized for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 434B, which established what was then the Homecare Workers Training Center to train workers in the state’s In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) program. IHSS allows low-income seniors and people with disabilities to receive care at home. 

By then, Hawks had already served as an unpaid caregiver to her parents and was taking care of her daughter Hester. “We had no training in the beginning,” she said.

She knocked on doors and gathered signatures to get training and healthcare for the workers.

“I knew I was caring for people, working for all these people,” Hawks said. “I just want to make sure they get treated right. I couldn’t stand to see anyone suffering.”

Hawks herself availed of the Education Center, taking courses on computers and languages. A former teacher, she also signed up for nursing school and volunteered at a downtown Los Angeles elementary school while working as a caregiver.

Pre-pandemic, Hawks made sure to get her daughter out of the house, watching movies or going to the beach. They also frequented Hope Lutheran Church. These days, they only venture out for doctor’s appointments or grocery runs. Hawks busies herself with preparing Hester’s favorite healthy meals. She also keeps up with most of her neighbors, many of whom know “Ms. Hawks” is only a phone call away.

She doesn’t keep up with union affairs like she used to. So many of her union friends are gone now, Hawks said.

“I was so grateful to be able to do all the work I did for the union,” she added. “I enjoyed it. I do think I changed the world for the better.”

For now, she is content to know she helped improve so many lives.

“I’m not complaining, you know why,” she asked. “I just thank God and pray God give me the strength to carry on. I trust in God. He’s keeping me going.”

Read Ana Duarte: Advocating to anyone who would listen

Read Cecilia Rivas: Fighting for value and respect

Read Laurene Mackey: “Caregivers are important people”