On December 15, 2011, as part of his “We Can’t Wait” program, President Obama pledged to end federal regulations excluding home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections, according to the Paraprofessional Health Institute (PHI).
Sixteen months later, millions of home care workers across the U.S. are still waiting, according to a Thursday press briefing from PHI.
And that waiting period is thinning more and more each day as there is already a shortage of home care workers in the U.S., according to Tracy Dudzinski, a certified nursing assistant and board president of Cooperative Care.
“It is work and should be regarded as work,” says Dudzinski.
With millions of baby boomers entering old age on the horizon, the demand for these kind of workers is only increasing, Dudzinski says.
Because home care workers are professionals in the services they provide, they should not be hampered from receiving a livable wage, says Paul Dzialo, president and CEO of Affinity Home Health Care, Inc.
“None of us can work without a budget in today’s way of life, yet we are asking these people to work for a lower wage and change in hours,” says Dzialo.
Dzialo’s home state of Massachusetts is part of the 21 states nationwide giving minimum wage and overtime by law. There are 16 states that follow this format, and five that only give minimum wage, he notes.
Additionally, he mentions there are 29 states that do not recognize these fundamentals.
“We can’t go on like this,” he says. “It’s been much, much too long.”
With unemployment at an average rate of 7.2% nationally, says Dzialo, the issue of home care workers, if left unaddressed, will become a problem.
Hailing over two million, home care workers represent the nation’s fastest growing workforce, says Carol Regan, director of government affairs at PHI.
“These are not casual laborers, but professional care workers who provide support and service to millions of Americans and their families everyday,” says Regan. “They should get the same basic protections as other American workers.”
At the end of 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor opened up a public commentary that lasted three months, in which the public submitted over 25,000 comments, 75% of which supported changes to the rules for home care workers, says Regan.
The rules were then submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its review in mid-January 2013. This week marks the end of the official 90-day review period.
“We’re calling on the Obama Administration to move quickly to finalize and publish this rule,” says Regan. “Home care workers who were specifically excluded from these basic labor protections 40 years ago have waited long enough.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article reported that the national unemployment rate was 17.2%, when in fact it was cited as 7.2%.
Written by Jason Oliva