Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Good News on Home Care Workers

Home care workers are finally required to be paid at least the minimum wages:

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers.
Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters — a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.
In an unusual move, the administration said the new regulation would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, even though regulations often take effect 60 days after being issued. The delay until 2015 is to give families that use these attendants, as well as state Medicaid programs, time to prepare for the new rule.
Industry experts say most of these workers are already paid at least the minimum wage, but many do not receive a time-and-a-half overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours a week. About 20 states exclude home care workers from their wage and hour laws.
“We think the workers providing this critical work should be receiving the same basic protection and coverage as the vast majority of American workers,” said Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. “We’ve seen a lot of turnover in this industry, and we believe that this new rule will stabilize the work force.”
The nation’s home care workers usually earn $8.50 to $12 an hour, according to industry officials. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
According to the Obama administration, almost 40 percent of aides receive government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Ninety-two percent of these workers are female, almost 30 percent are black and 12 percent are Hispanic.

Bolds are mine.

I understand that paying more is not fun for the families or for the states which pay for Medicaid.  But all workers must have the same basic security and all workers should be treated the same.  All full-time workers should be able to live (however frugally) on their earnings.

Home-based workers -- servants and such --- were not initially covered by Social Security old-age provisions, either.  It looks like certain groups always get their dinners last, after others have eaten.

When a dear friend was dying his home care workers were incredible.  These were strangers who came into the house to take care of him so that he could die at home and to help his wife who had just broken her hip and was herself bed-ridden.  They came as strangers but soon became friends. 

I cannot say enough about their professionalism, kindness, skills and helpfulness or about the way they did the pastoral and psychological care that is needed at end of life.  Incredible people!