In-Home Workers for Elderly, People with Disabilities in Limbo as Administration Delays Overtime Protections
Statewide, CA – Demanding equality for all workers, legislators, clergy, seniors and community groups joined caregivers at multiple rallies across the state today, escalating pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown to keep his promise to treat all workers equally under the law and allow In-Home Supportive Services providers to earn overtime pay after a 40-hours work week. The in-home caregiving workforce, overwhelmingly women and predominantly women of color, fought hard to win equal treatment on overtime last year.
Events were held in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino and Oakland, highlighting the critical work that in-home workers provide to the elderly and people with disabilities.
“Our work is not visible, but it’s absolutely vital to the well-being of our clients,” said Virginia Duran, a home care provider in San Jose. “It’s demoralizing that the governor is sending us the message that we don’t deserve the same treatment as others. The fact is California can’t move forward when we are leaving 400,000 workers behind.”
As part of the 2014-15 budget agreement, Governor Brown agreed to implement new federal rules that finally brought in-home care under the Federal Labor Standards Act, after 70 years of unfair exclusion. But in January – two weeks after the new overtime rules were set to take effect – the Administration announced it would halt implementation of the promised overtime rates after a federal judge delayed the federal FLSA rules due to a legal challenge from out-of-state, for-profit home care agencies.
Nothing in the federal ruling prevents the Brown Administration from moving forward with its commitment; in fact the funds are already in the budget and cannot be used for other purposes.
“Last year, when Governor Brown signed SB 855, he made a commitment to in-home caregivers that they would at last be treated as the equals of every other worker and enjoy the same overtime protections as all other California workers. Now, Governor Brown is using an out-of-state legal challenge as an excuse not to fulfill his commitment,” said Kim Evon, Secretary Treasurer of SEIU-ULTCW (United Long Term Care Workers). “We won’t stand by silently while the Governor disregards a promise to 400,000 working Californians who are barely scraping by on poverty-level wages while caring for our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”
Hundreds of home caregivers, joined by community groups, pointed out the injustice in the Administration decision by filing wage theft claims at State Department of Industrial Relations offices in cities across the state today. Their action illustrates how home care providers remain unprotected by the basic labor laws that apply to nearly every other worker in California.
“The governor cannot betray us and go back on his word by not paying us overtime,” said Doug Moore, Executive Director of the United Domestic Workers of America. “We are going to continue to stand up every day to make sure he does the right thing. He needs to keep his promise. It’s as simple as that.”
Governor Brown’s action comes when California should be strengthening the home care workforce, not weakening it. Home care workers are an increasingly important part of California’s healthcare delivery system – making sure medications are properly taken, preventing injury, and recognizing potential health problems before they require a hospital visit. As California’s baby boomers begin to retire, the state will need more and more people to take on this challenging work. By refusing them basic benefits such as overtime, California is telling potential new home care providers to look elsewhere for work. Other healthcare providers joined the action to point out the fundamental inequity of excluding one class of caregivers from overtime protections.
“Healthcare workers like me who work in hospitals and nursing homes receive overtime, and we believe it’s only fair that in-home caregivers, who are working with some of the same patients we are, receive it too,” said Georgette Bradford, Ultrasound Tech, Kaiser Sacramento. “That’s why we joined IHSS caregivers today in protesting the Governor’s decision to delay equal treatment.”
Today’s actions come after workers last week launched a vigil that continues daily outside Gov. Brown’s Capitol Office in Sacramento.