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PRESS RELEASE: Federal Minimum Wage Increase Would NOT Benefit Millions of Home Care Workers

July 24, 2012

America's Fastest-Growing Occupation Still Excluded from Federal Wage Protections

Bronx, NY – Although today low-wage workers across the country and their supporters are participating in a "Day of Action" to raise the federal minimum wage, 2.5 million home care workers would not benefit if the federal minimum wage were to be increased.

Home care workers –- the fastest-growing occupation in the nation, ranking among the top occupations projected to generate the most new jobs by 2020 (pdf) -– remain excluded from federal minimum wage and protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The so-called "companionship exemption" -– in effect since 1974 -– considers home care workers to be mere "babysitters" or "companions to the elderly or infirm."

In December, however, President Obama proposed a new rule to revise the companionship exemption. Yet the rule has not been finalized and published in the Federal Register, the final step before implementation.

"Home care workers cannot wait any longer to be guaranteed minimum wage and overtime protections," said Steve Edelstein, PHI national policy director. "The Obama Administration must move quickly to ensure that home care workers, among the lowest paid workers in the nation, are no longer consigned to poverty by the antiquated companionship exemption. The rapidly growing $84 billion home care industry doesn't need this subsidy to remain profitable."

Further delays in the process could result in the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) revised rule being rolled back, should a new administration take office in January. The DOL previously attempted to revise the rule at the end of President Clinton's term, but the effort was undone by the incoming Bush Administration.

During the public comment period that followed the release of the proposed rule on the companionship exemption, DOL received over 26,000 comments of which 19,000 were in favor of extending federal minimum wage protections to home care workers.

"Until home care workers –- the people who make it possible for frail elders and people with disabilities to live at home -– are extended federal labor protections, an increase in the federal minimum wage will not make a difference in their pay checks," Edelstein said. "It's time to treat home care workers with the dignity and respect they deserve."

Half of home care workers earn poverty level wages and depend on public assistance (pdf) to make ends meet.

To learn more about the Campaign for Fair Pay, visit www.PHInational.org/fairpay. For background on the home care workforce, go to www.PHInational.org/homecarefacts.

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PHI, the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (www.phinational.org), works to transform eldercare and disability services, fostering dignity, respect, and independence -– for all who receive care, and all who provide it. The nation’s leading authority on the direct-care workforce, PHI promotes quality direct-care jobs as the foundation for quality care.

dbeebe@phinational.org

Deane Beebe

PHI Media Relations Director

646-285-1039

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