Quantcast

Winning Basic Care for Care Givers | The Nation

  •  
Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Budget wars, activism, uprising, dissent and general rabble-rousing.

Winning Basic Care for Care Givers

Will Occupy Wall Street alter anything about the way money media cover movements?

Even among those who ignored the occupations at the start, it’s hard to find any media outlet that has not now dedicated significant time to Occupy. The notion that the protests might change the public discussion of poverty and wealth went from romantic conjecture to conventional wisdom in less time than it took the pundits to wipe the egg off their faces.

Whatever happens electorally next year, OWS will have played some part in it, but if OWS gets written into the media accounts it’ll be a victory in itself, because generally the money media cover change as if it’s a mysterious process in which pretty much only presidents deserve real credit, not movements. Its no wonder regular Americans have a rather skewed picture of history, politics and our potential part in any of it.

Take a rule change that would improve life for millions of home care workers. In 1974, when the Labor Department extended federal labor protections to in-home workers, they created an exemption for “companion services,” understood at the time to mean mostly casual babysitters or relatives. Since then, under various definitions, home care has mushroomed into a multibillion-dollar business dominated by large for-profit agencies—one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy. In-home work is slated to grow by 50 percent between 2008 and 2018 and yet much of the workforce still exists in an unprotected legal murk where their work is “expected, but not respected,” as Tracy Dudzinski a home care worker and advocate for home care workers put it in a conference call for reporters.

Evelyn Coke a home care aide in New York who often worked seventy hours a week, brought a suit that resulted in a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that she was not entitled to overtime pay under existing regulations. The Court said it was up to Congress or the Labor Department to change the rules.

On December 15, President Obama announced that proposed rule change.

“Something akin to justice may finally be at hand for the nation’s nearly two million home care aides,” editorialized the New York Times, November 25. The paper championed the proposed changes again in an editorial December 26, “Fairness for Home Care Aides.”

Twice in as many weeks the editors praised the good proposals, while ignoring the good people who have made the change if not inevitable, then at least more likely than it’s been in decades.

Republican lawmakers, large home care agencies and business groups have always opposed the change. For decades theirs have been the only voices loud enough—and rich enough—to make them selves heard on the issue. “Caring Across Generations,” an extraordinary coalition of community, labor, immigrant and women’s groups has changed that equation. Working individually and as a group, they’ve met with Secretary Solis, lobbied lawmakers, gathered signatures and organized locally and nationally to turn up the heat on the home aide exemption. Last summer they held their first national Care Congress in DC, which Secretary Solis attended. More are planned in other cities in 2012.

“These changes could and should have been made years ago. What created the context, in my belief, for the president and Secretary Solis to make this move is the work of thousands who’ve made an invisible workforce visible,” said Stephen Edelstein, policy director of PHI Policy Works, a group that works on behalf of home health workers and belongs to the Caring Across Generations initiative.

More than 90 percent of home care workers are women, and nearly 50 percent are minorities. About four in ten rely on public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Once published, the plan will be open for public comment for sixty days at www.regulations.gov. The US Chamber and its members will certainly be commenting, as will Caring Across Generations members. You can comment at the federal rulemaking website: www.regulations.gov.

Ah, but that would require you knowing you could play a part in the process.

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.