Home Care Workers Urge Labor Secretary for Wage Increase—Soon

National workers’ advocacy, civil rights and women’s groups are urging the Department of Labor to implement long-awaited reforms that include extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers.

“The basic rights of two million home care workers—predominantly women and disproportionately women of color—once again hang in the balance, as the administration appears at risk of faltering in the face of opposition from some industry and Medicaid officials who continue to claim they are not prepared for the reforms,” proponents of wage reforms write in their recent letter addressed to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Monday’s letter calls on Perez to implement the new rule in January 2015.

The letter follows remarks by Department of Labor officials that have fueled concern that the administration will further delay reforms. Some state officials say they remain ill-equipped for the new rule, despite having been given two extensions of the public-notice-and-comment period and a 15-month implementation period in which to prepare for the changes.
 
The National Association of Medicaid Directors has requested a further 18-month delay in the new pay rule. Kansas and Oregon also submitted letters requesting a delay. 

“If the Department of Labor yields to these unreasonable demands two million workers will continue to be shut out of the most basic federal wage protections, which nearly every other worker in the nation is able to take for granted; workers in 29 states will continue to have no minimum wage or overtime rights at all; [and] workers in five states will miss out on a scheduled state minimum wage increase,” the letter says.

Recently, thousands of home care workers in 150 cities joined fast-food industry employees in their efforts to persuade lawmakers to raise the minimum wage requirement.

In Washington State earlier this month, home care workers will soon see a spike in pay and increased benefits following a contract win by a union representing many home health workers in the state.

In addition, California and New York have taken the necessary steps to implement the rules change. Other states have also begun tracking workers’ weekly hours and are gearing up to pay workers for all of their work time, as the rules change requires, the letter says, adding that California and New York run the nation’s two largest Medicaid home care programs — accounting for almost half the nation’s home care workforce.

Home care workers, along with personal care aides, rank among the top jobs projected for immense growth in the coming years as the population ages, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Home care workers have been unjustly excluded from protection since 1974, when the Department of Labor issued overly broad rules that shut them out from federal wage and hour laws,” the letter says. “Since then, they’ve seen their hopes for progress dashed repeatedly.”

Read the letter here

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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