Thursday, July 21, 2011

Philly JwJ Heads to the Capitol!

Last Tuesday, July 12th, 4 people from Philly JwJ headed down to Washington D.C. where we met over 700 other activists from around the country. What we all had in common was a dedication to fighting for a better home care system at the first Care Congress in the United States. Caring Across Generations, the emerging campaign, hopes to ensure proper elder care protections while ensuring that the workers providing this care have decent wages, benefits, and conditions. Furthermore, we need to demand the rights of domestic child care workers, providers of an equally essential service. Domestic child care workers are also frequently exploited and abused while providing the necessary care for the nation's children. What everyone in Washington agreed upon is that we need to provide child care workers and elder care workers with the rights and respect that all human beings deserve.

At the conference, we listened to numerous motivating speeches on both the importance of home care and the importance of treating home care workers with dignity and respect. In the afternoon, the attendees either participated in workshops to discuss organizing for home care workers in their community or went to Congress to demand that they protect Medicaid. All of the participants had a great opportunity to meet and talk with other like-minded activists dedicated to this critical fight for worker justice and fair jobs.

Right now, the United States has an aging population and longer life expectancy, meaning that the demand for home care workers is skyrocketing. It is critical that we ensure that the people who need care are able to get it, and able to get it affordably. At the same time, we need to make sure that the people who provide it are treated as professionals providing an essential service, and are paid a living wage.

Unfortunately, the National Labor Relations Act excludes workers caring for the elderly in their homes with what's known as the "companionship exemption." This disgraceful law means that these workers do not even have the basic minimum wage and overtime protections that most of us take for granted. Furthermore, many providers of child and elder care are abused by their employers and paid far less than any law allows. Thankfully, 21 states have passed legislation including home care workers in minimum wage laws, and 16 states have passed legislation including them in overtime protections. However, this is not enough. It is time to amend the NLRA and end the exemption. And this will just be the first step. The national momentum is gathering, and we intend to ensure necessary protections for ALL home care workers.

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