Washington Post Publishes Op-Ed Calling for Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

April 5, 2012

PHI President Steven L. Dawson and Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Dean Baker, in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on March 29, contend that the exemption of home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act is an “issue that affects the welfare of women,” but gets little attention.

In “Home Health Aides Deserve a Living Wage,” Dawson and Baker write that “caregiving in America is a female occupation.” Women are the vast majority of family caregivers and comprise 90 percent of the paid home care workforce (pdf) — which explains why home care workers have been excluded from basic federal labor guarantees.

“Caregiving, like other forms of domestic service, has traditionally been considered less important than jobs done by white men,” Dawson and Baker write. “The idea that domestic work is not ‘real work’ has kept wages low for all types of ‘women’s work.'” The annual income of home care workers is $16,600.

About three-quarters of the nearly 10,000 comments submitted to the Department of Labor before the public comment period closed were in favor of extending home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections under FLSA. All of the comments can be viewed online.

“Extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home-care workers is another step in America’s progress toward ending gender and racial discrimination,” Dawson and Baker write. “But fairness is not the only reason to make this change,” they add, noting that it would also help to reduce costly turnover and meet the rapidly increasing demand for these workers as the nation’s population ages.

“The country needs a national solution that helps us all meet our family responsibilities. That includes building a skilled, stable workforce by treating caregiving as real work and paying those who provide these services a living wage,” Dawson and Baker advise.

More Media Coverage on the Companionship Exemption

PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein was interviewed by America’s Workforce Radio on March 30 on the proposal to revise the companionship exemption.

National Domestic Workers Alliance Director Ai-Jen Poo and Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta, the co-directors of Caring Across Generations (CAG), discussed workers’ rights with Bill Moyers on his new PBS television show. CAG is a coalition of 200 organizations, including PHI, that seek to provide quality care and dignity for aging Americans and their caregivers.

For other media coverage and more information on the companionship exemption, visit PHI’s Campaign for Fair Pay site.

— by Deane Beebe

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