Labor unions and advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for the changes, contending that the 37-year-old exemption improperly swept these workers, who care for many elderly and disabled Americans, into the same “companion” category as baby sitters. The administration’s move calls for home care aides to be protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.
These workers, according to industry figures, generally earn $8.50 to $12 an hour, compared with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The White House said 92 percent of these workers were women, nearly 30 percent were African-American and 12 percent Hispanic. Nearly 40 percent rely on public benefits like Medicaid and food stamps.
While industry experts say an overwhelming majority are paid at least the minimum wage, many do not receive a time-and-a-half premium when they work more than 40 hours a week. Twenty-two states do not include home health care workers under their wage and hour laws.
Home care workers assist elderly people with all aspects of their lives, including bathing, exercise, and remembering to take medications. They may also prepare meals, and do housework. They may be dealing with clients in varying stages of dementia. There's a great deal of skill required to do this kind of work.
These are also workers who don't get sick days, any sort of benefits, and if their client dies - well, that's just too bad. No more paychecks for them.
Predictably, the opposition is gearing up:
“The president’s goal is commendable, but the likely result of this new rule is reduced hours for home care workers and higher costs for taxpayers,” said John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House Education and the Work Force Committee, and Tim Walberg, a Minnesota Republican who heads the panel’s subcommittee on work force protections. “Moreover, our nation’s elderly may pay the greatest price in the form of more costly services and fewer opportunities to obtain the care they need in the comfort of their own homes.”
In other words: Caregivers are good enough to take care of the elderly, but what they do isn't real work, therefore they don't deserve the sort of protections that other workers are entitled to.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org