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Home Care Workers Rally for $15 Wage Across the U.S.

April 16, 2015

Home care workers joined fast food employees and other low-wage workers on April 15 to rally for higher wages in demonstrations across the U.S.

Using the slogan “Fight for $15,” an estimated 60,000 people voiced their support for a higher minimum wage in what organizers described as the largest protest by low-wage workers in U.S. history, the Guardian reported.

The protests were held in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and an estimated 200 other U.S. cities.

Paid Next to Nothing

Improving the wages of home care workers would have a positive impact on the economy as a whole, a recent PHI report called Paying the Price: How Poverty Wages Undermine Home Care in America says.

In an April 15 CNN op-ed, Mary Kay Henry, international president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), cited Paying the Price in arguing for the necessity of higher wages for home care workers.

“Over the next decade, a million women — most likely black or Latina, almost certainly living in poverty — will become home care workers,” she wrote. “These women make up 91% of the home care workforce but will be paid next to nothing.”

There are no plans in place to raise the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at just $7.25 an hour. But states and cities have enacted wage increases in recent years, with Seattle and San Francisco among the cities raising their minimum to $15/hour.

Hopeless Poverty Traps

But the need for broader action is getting more urgent, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham wrote in an April 15 Daily News op-ed.

“Home care is the fastest-growing job and health care is the fastest-growing industry in America,” he wrote. “The men and women who care for the aging population need good, middle-class, family-sustaining jobs, rather than hopeless poverty traps.”

Approximately half of the home care, child care, and fast food workforces live in households that depend on public assistance to make ends meet, a recent report by the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education showed.

— by Matthew Ozga

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