We last checked on this in 2011:
The Obama administration proposed regulations on Thursday to give the nation’s nearly two million home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections. Those workers have long been exempted from coverage. 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.
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.
Noting that nearly 90 percent of the nation’s home care aides work for agencies, Labor Department officials said such aides would receive the new wage and hour protections. The department said some companions employed by individuals for activities like helping them take walks or engage in hobbies would still be exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage.
The Obama administration is moving forward with a contentious and long-dormant proposal to institute minimum wage and overtime standards for the in-home healthcare industry.
Enactment of the regulations, which are under final review at the White House, would represent a major victory for unions that have fought for decades to win higher pay for direct-care aides.
For workers, the issue goes beyond money. “It’s fundamentally an issue of respect,” Ward said, arguing that direct care aides reflect a vital part of the healthcare industry. “It’s being treated as something less than real work.”
I think the respect part of this isn’t discussed nearly enough. We can’t keep saying how much we value hard work in the abstract without ever mentioning how little we value certain kinds of work. Tinkering with the tax code and protecting low wage worker safety net programs (like food stamps) to try to keep people above water is all well and good, but at some point respecting the work that people do means talking about it in real terms; wages and hours and take home pay.