Home Care Workers’ Fair-Pay Fight Attracts Media Attention
In recent weeks, several media outlets have reported on the need to revise the companionship exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which excludes home care workers from minimum-wage and overtime protections.
The Hill‘s Congress Blog
The companionship exemption disproportionately affects women of color, write Tracy Dudzinski and Ai-jen Poo in an April 11 blog post at The Hill.
“Nine out of ten home care workers are women, most are members of minority groups, and many are immigrants,” they write. “It is time to close the loopholes in the Jim Crow-era deal that institutionalized these workers as second-class citizens who can be denied the most basic workplace rights.”
Dudzinski is a certified nursing assistant and serves as chairwoman of the Direct Care Alliance. Poo is co-director of Caring Across Generations.
Janis Durick — owner of From the Heart Companion Services, a home care agency – wrote about the need to extend basic wage protection to home care workers in an April 10 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed.
“I know it’s not only possible to pay home-care workers time and a half for overtime: It’s the right thing to do,” Durick wrote.
“Besides, here in Pennsylvania and in 14 other states, it’s already the law,” Durick added.
An April 5 post on the AARP Blog by Chuck Ross tells a personal story about the importance of home care workers.
“Home health aides were critical in helping me keep my father living with me for the 3-1/2 years he lived under my roof,” Ross writes. “This wasn’t a simple companionship service, it was real work.”
On March 28, Alexa Underwood of HealthyCal.org published an article about the rising demand for home care services — and the low wages earned by workers. Underwood cites PHI statistics in noting that the U.S. will need 1.6 million more direct-care workers by 2020 to meet demand.
Yet, as she points out in the article, President Obama has thus far failed to act on his December 2011 promise to extend wage protections to home care workers, a move that would help attract more people to the field of home care.
Finally, the Miami Herald took note of the need to fix the companionship exemption in a March 16 article by Ana Veciana-Suarez.
Veciana-Suarez quotes PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein as saying that better training standards and a commitment to higher wages will be necessary to build the nation’s home care workforce.
“We need to seriously look at wages and provide appropriate training and benefits and opportunities for advancement if we want this to be an occupation that people enter and stay with,” he said in the article.
— by Matthew Ozga