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Obama’s Fair Wage Promise Still Unfulfilled One Year Later

December 13, 2012

It has been a year since President Obama first announced his intention to extend federal minimum-wage and overtime protections to home care workers.

At a White House press conference last December 15, Obama said that his administration would work to do “what is fair and what is right” by amending the “companionship exemption” of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prevents home care workers from being guaranteed basic labor rights.

On December 27, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would finally amend FLSA to include home care workers.

During a subsequent public-comment period, the DOL received 26,000 comments, 19,000 of which favored the change.

Since the comment period ended, however, the final rule has yet to be issued.

“We Are Still Waiting”

With the anniversary of Obama’s press conference fast approaching, advocates continue to urge the president to fulfill his promise.

In a December 13 letter to the president (pdf), a group of home care workers, administrators, and consumers who had stood on stage with Obama during last year’s press conference described their anticipation of fair pay for home care workers.

“After decades of exclusion, home care workers would finally be covered by the same basic workforce protections enjoyed by most of America’s workers,” they write.

However, they note, “One year later, we are still waiting.”

A video published by the National Employment Law Project on December 13 highlights the remarks Obama made on home care wages during the press conference last year.

PHI Calls on Obama for Final Rule

PHI has also made its voice heard regarding the anniversary of Obama’s promise in recent weeks:

  • “Home care workers cannot wait any longer for this administration to make good on its promise,” wrote PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein in a letter published in the New York Times on December 3.
  • The “simple act” of extending basic wage protections to home care workers “is a strong first step toward validating the professionalism and dedication of this critical workforce,” wrote PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon in a December 6 letter to the Des Moines Register.
  • “The cost of paying home care workers a FAIR WAGE is minimal while the benefits are large,” Sturgeon noted in a December 12 blog post at MomsRising.org.

Additionally, a December 13 Huffington Post article, entitled “Home Care Workers Urge Obama to Follow Through on Granting Minimum Wage Protections,” cites PHI data showing that median home care worker wages have fallen over the last decade.

Petition for Fair Pay

PHI and its allies are urging that people ask the Obama administration to keep its promise to home care workers by signing an online petition.

Today, PHI and its allies launched a big push for signatures and have already exceeded their 2,000-signature goal. The current signature count is over 3,400.

Supporters of fair pay for home care workers are encouraged to sign the petition and tell the President to keep the promise he made to home care workers on year ago.

For more information, visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay home page.

— by Matthew Ozga

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