Labor

New Labor Rules for Home Care Workers on the Table

Monday, February 20, 2012

Elder-care jobs are booming as the U.S. population ages. A rule to extend federal wage protections to this predominantly female work force is in public comment stage; advocates push five reforms; one for each finger of a caring hand.

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Tough Negotiations

The intimate and complicated nature of home care work can make it hard for a worker to negotiate and receive standard work conditions, said Olguin-Tayler, who also serves as campaign director for the New York-based National Domestic Worker Alliance.

"We hear things about people not having sick days, getting pressure to go to work when they are sick."

In July 2011 Caring Across Generations began a series of day-long "care congresses" across the country to fill in the education gaps.

The meetings are hosted and run by a grassroots network of advocacates for seniors, disability rights and in-home care workers. Funding comes from a mix of donations and money from Caring Across Generation, according to Olguin-Tayler.

Seven more of these meetings, which attract between 250 and 500 participants, are scheduled for later this year, including New York City, Seattle, Chicago and Miami.

Campaigners are looking for more state domestic workers' bills of rights to follow and be expanded to home care health workers at the same time. One in California was introduced last year, and comparable bills are expected to arise in Washington state and Illinois in the coming year.

"A lot of the issues that I've seen workers bring up are very similar," said Perla Placencia, an organizer for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, based in New York, who helped organize a meeting for caregivers in the San Francisco Bay Are last summer. "Limited pay, lack of benefits, and just working in a stressful environment, because it's so much responsibility to care for someone who has particular health needs. People really enjoy the work they do, but they aren't being compensated for how important it is, and how hard it is."

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Amy Lieberman is a correspondent at the United Nations headquarters and a freelance writer in New York City.

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