Obama administration extends labor protections to home care workers

Some good, if long overdue, news for the nation’s home care workers. Via The New York Times:

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers.

Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters — a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.

Like so many of the workers in exhausting, low-paying jobs without basic labor protections, home care workers mostly women, particularly women of color and immigrants. Ninety-two percent are women, almost 30 percent are black, and 12 percent are Latina. And as the baby boomers continues to get older, even more home care workers will be needed to meet the growing demand. According to the Labor Department, the industry is expected to grow by a whopping 70 percent between 2010 and 2020. 

As Feministing favorite Ai-jen Poo, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Caring Across Generations campaign, explains, “This change is a long overdue show of respect for women in the workplace and for the important work of supporting seniors and people with disabilities.” Symbolically and materially, these new regulations are an important step towards placing proper value on the historically “women’s work” of taking care of others.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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