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OP-ED: Fair Wages Necessary to Build Home Care Workforce

May 2, 2012

Terry Bucher

The U.S. cannot build the home care workforce it needs to care for the aging baby-boomer generation unless home care workers are paid fairly, argues an op-ed (pdf) published in the Orlando Sentinel on April 27.

The op-ed was written by Terry Bucher, the president emeritus of the Florida Professional Association of Care Givers.

In the op-ed, Bucher explains that Florida is one of 29 states that do not offer home care workers basic wage protections, such as minimum wage or time-and-a-half overtime pay. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act similarly excludes home care workers from such protections.

“Florida’s home-care workers are dedicated and diligent,” Bucher writes. “But until they are guaranteed a fair wage, Florida will simply not be able to attract enough qualified workers to meet the growing need for home-care services.”

Hope for a Federal Rule Change

In late 2011, the Obama administration proposed a federal rule change that would finally extend basic wage protections to home care workers.

Bucher notes that the Department of Labor received 26,000 public comments regarding the proposal — most of them in favor of the change.

The DOL must act to extend overtime and minimum wage protections to home care workers, Bucher writes.

She cites PHI research (pdf) in arguing that the $84 billion home care industry can easily afford to pay its workers a fair wage.

Additionally, better wages for home care workers would lower worker turnover, Bucher writes. High turnover rates are costly to home care companies and result in lower-quality care for elders and people with disabilities.

— by Matthew Ozga

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