Writing in the New York Times on Sunday, Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, professors at UC-Santa Barbara and Yale, respectively, highlighted the continued struggle facing home care workers across the United States. Earlier this year, standing beside SEIU ULTCW member Pauline Beck, a home health aide from Oakland, CA , President Obama announced a proposed Labor Department rule change to give home care workers protections, like overtime pay, that most American workers take for granted.
“Establishing the legitimacy of care as productive, necessary labor – a really job – would recognize the realities of both our aging society and our service economy,” Boris and Kelin editorialize. “It would also begin the long-overdue work of updating labor standards for the workplaces of a new century.”
Close to 2 million home care workers would be affected by the proposed rule, made even more important by the fact that home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing job category in the country and projected to double by 2018.
Despite the critical benefits of a rule change, especially for the majority of home care workers who are women and immigrants, President Obama has faced Republican opposition. “On June 7, a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Mike Johanns of Nebraska, sought to pre-empt Mr. Obama’s initiative and consign home care workers to perpetual second-class status,” Boris and Klein explain. “In assuming that adequate care can come only from suppressing wages, these Republicans pit the interests of care receivers and givers against one another.
“This fight isn’t simply about the ability to earn the minimum wage or slightly more for working even longer hours; that would still keep home care workers poor,” the two professors conclude. “Its deeper possibility is the potential to reestablish some notion of labor standards, rights and security after decades of gutting them.”