WASHINGTON, D.C. — Determined to win home care workers the respect and basic labor protections they deserve, four direct care workers, an advocate for people with disabilities and a family caregiver from Maine went to Capitol Hill this fall for a National Day of Action. The team visited their members of Congress to deliver an urgent message: We must guarantee home care workers the right to minimum wage and overtime pay.
Teams from a dozen other states also converged in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the change. At the same time, hundreds of advocates across the nation were delivering the same message to members of Congress in their home states.
Due to skyrocketing demand, home care is the fastest-growing job category in the U.S. Yet these crucial workers, who enable elders and people with disabilities to remain as healthy and independent as possible in their own homes, often struggle to support themselves and their families. With wages averaging less than $10 an hour, about half of all home care workers must rely on food stamps or some other form of public assistance.
Those who log more than 40 hours a week aren’t even guaranteed overtime pay. That’s because home care workers are excluded from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, classified as mere “companions” to the people they assist.
Last December, President Obama announced a proposed rule to put an end to this shameful oversight. The rule won overwhelming support from the American people during the public comment period. More than 20,000 favorable comments — more than 80 percent of the total submitted — were in favor of the rule, yet DOL has not yet enacted it.
Maine’s delegation included family caregiver Erin Hayes of Auburn; Dennis Fitzgibbons of Yarmouth, the executive director of Alpha One, Maine's Center for Independent Living and a member of the board of directors of the Direct Care Alliance; and home care workers Ted Rippy of Brewer, Dee Dee Strout of Corinth, Helen Hanson of China and David Moreau of Wayne.