Archive for July, 2010

Your Voices Have Been Heard! Introduction of Direct Care Legislation Marks Historic Day for Workers

Posted by on July 29th, 2010 at 9:28 am | 2 Comments »

July 28, 2010, was a remarkable day for direct care workers across the country as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) announced the introduction of the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act.

Rep. Sanchez has been a champion for direct care workers.  Last year, she led an effort along with DCA to call on the Department of Labor to fix the companionship exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act. While we do applaud the Department of Labor for adding this issue to the 2010 regulatory agenda, a legislative change would solidify protections for home care workers in the law, not leaving this issue to the “whims of any one administration.”  As someone who has worked for less-than-minimum wage in my lifetime, I can say that this change is long overdue. Too many direct care workers struggle to support themselves and their families, working long hours doing backbreaking labor not because they have to, but because they love helping others. They are professionals and should have the same protections as all other workers in this country. Continue reading »

DCA Ramps Up Membership, Advocacy Efforts with New Staff

Posted by on July 19th, 2010 at 10:41 am | 2 Comments »

Roy Gedat

Former National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat will re-join the DCA staff as State Advocacy Director to lead the development of its membership program, focusing on recruiting and developing direct care worker leaders and connecting with supporters and advocates across the country. Roy will also support the implementation of the Langeloth Foundation grant to provide worker leadership training in New York and Maine. His work was instrumental to the DCA’s early success, and we’re thrilled to have him back! Roy has over 35 years in human services including 20 as the Executive Director of a child health agency. He was the founding director of Maine’s direct care worker organization Maine PASA, a direct care worker and a political activist who has run for office, and is currently the Treasurer of Oxford County, Maine. Roy has recently been focusing his energies on starting a private duty home care agency, raising money for several local and state-wide organizations and political campaign

Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson, a great friend of the DCA and a strong advocate for direct care workers in Maine, is joining our staff as a Worker Advocate to assist in grassroots organizing and strengthen our advocacy efforts  in Maine and across the country.  Helen is a graduate of the DCA’s Voices Institute and has excelled so much since!  She is a Certified Nursing Assistant and works with elders in their homes as a Personal Care Attendant. She’s been a direct care worker for eight years and has been an active advocate for change, leading Maine PASA and serving on a committee established to advise the Department of Health and Human Services on how to improve its long-term care system. She is currently running for the Maine House of Representatives.

Helen and Roy are huge assets to DCA and will be key to our continued growth. Please join me in welcoming them aboard!

Poems from Direct Care Workers: We Are Family

Posted by on July 19th, 2010 at 9:36 am | Comments Off on Poems from Direct Care Workers: We Are Family

David Moreau

The staff from Practical Life Skills keeps
a pretty tight lid on Thursday’s music group
in the big cafeteria. No one’s allowed past the tape
three feet in front of the sound system.
The guys from our room don’t get to use
the microphone and because of fire regulations
they insist we have to have a staff person
for every participant who’s in a wheelchair.
Freddie always sings YMCA and Tony
Who Let the Dogs Out? Then Gracie belts
Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy, in that order. Continue reading »

CNA Turned Local Politician: Direct Care Worker Runs for Office in Maine

Posted by on July 9th, 2010 at 3:44 pm | 4 Comments »

Helen Hanson Runs for Office

People know me as a direct care worker – a C.N.A. working as a personal care assistant in Maine’s home-based care system. But now I want to be known as an elected official. I am running for Maine’s House of Representatives from House District 55. That includes the towns of Albion, Benton (part), China and the unorganized territory of Unity Plantation.

I am running because I want to keep the work on streamlining Maine’s home-based care system moving forward. I am also running because I am a direct care worker who deals with the problems and pitfalls of our work each and every day.

I know what it is like to live off low wages, have no health benefits, have no safety net whatsoever, and support a family. I’m very thankful that my husband has a job that provides our health coverage, has a better wage than mine, and has paid overtime when he works over time. If my husband’s job did not provide those things, I would not be working as a PCA, providing essential care to a lady that is paralyzed and living in her home. I’d be just another of those horrible direct care workforce statistics, a skilled worker who had to leave because she could not make it on her low wages.

How did I get involved in politics, you ask? I trace it back to the Direct Care Alliance, a wonderful national organization that is working hard improve working conditions for direct care workers. Continue reading »

Evelyn Coke: An American Hero

Posted by on July 9th, 2010 at 11:13 am | 10 Comments »

This month, we join direct care workers and their allies across the country in remembering Evelyn Coke, the heroic woman who has inspired the Direct Care Alliance’s advocacy efforts on behalf of direct care workers struggling to make ends meet and support themselves and their families.

Artist rendering of Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Evelyn Coke, Supreme Court. Courtesy of Art Lien.

Evelyn Coke – a courageous Jamaican immigrant from Queens – passed away a year ago at the age of 74.  For over twenty years she provided care to dozens of people and assisted them with tasks like getting in and out of bed, dressing and undressing, cooking and eating, toileting and bathing.  At times, Evelyn worked three consecutive 24-hour periods, providing essential care to the elderly but receiving a mere $7 an hour – with no health benefits or overtime pay.  Her situation is emblematic of the plight of home care workers.  But her passion and drive  to gain respect, dignity, and fair pay and benefits lives on in the Direct Care Alliance and in the direct care workers who are making their voices heard in the fight for change. Continue reading »

Paid Sick Days are Crucial for Direct Care Workers

Posted by on July 9th, 2010 at 9:28 am | Comments Off on Paid Sick Days are Crucial for Direct Care Workers

This is a guest post from Vicki Shabo, Director of Work & Family Programs for the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Every day in the United States, more workers than many of us imagine face an impossible choice: go to work sick, or forgo a paycheck and risk job loss or workplace discipline.  More than 40 million private sector workers in this country do not have access to even a single paid sick day. And when it comes to personal care workers—those who tend to the elderly and care for small children—more than half (52%) lack paid sick days.

The need for paid sick days for direct care workers could not be more critical.  With pay rates that average about $10 per hour, every cent earned is crucial to direct care workers’ financial stability and the economic security of their families.  On the other hand, when direct care workers go to work sick, they risk the fragile health of those they care for—people who are ill, elderly, or medically needy and who are entrusted to their care. Continue reading »