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Iowa Congressman Taken to Task for Opposing Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

September 20, 2012

A recent commentary published in the Des Moines Register questions why the Partnership for Quality Healthcare, a home care trade association, bought a newspaper ad to thank Rep. Tom Latham (R, Iowa) for supporting elders and people with disabilities who need home care services.

The author, Dean Lerner, former director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, suspects that the industry group’s motive for placing the ad is that Latham is opposed to extending home care worker minimum wage and overtime protections through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Latham is co-sponsoring a bill that sends a “clear message” that a job as a home care worker is “insignificant and unworthy of basic wage protections” and the bill would “keep many, if not most of these caregivers of our loved ones in poverty and near-poverty conditions,” Lerner explains.

At a time when the demand for home care workers is growing rapidly, Latham’s position is the “exact way NOT to encourage, build, and sustain a large, well-qualified, essential workforce” to meet people’s needs, Lerner writes.

From 2008 to 2018, the growth projections for Iowa’s home health aides and personal care aides are 43 percent and 40 percent, respectively, according to a PHI analysis.

Change Tied to the Election

The Obama Administration has proposed to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers by revising the “companionship exemption” under FLSA. However, this regulatory change has yet to be finalized.

In a Tennessean article on the status of the proposal to extend fair pay to home care workers, PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein explains that, “The future of this change is pretty much tied to the general election.”

Visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay website to sign a petition asking the U.S. Department of Labor and White House that home care workers cannot wait any longer for a fair wage.

— by Deane Beebe

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