Archive for September, 2012

Making Our Voices Heard on the National Day of Action

Posted by on September 25th, 2012 at 10:42 am | 13 Comments »

Determined to win home care workers the respect and basic labor protections they deserve, direct care workers and their allies converged on Capitol Hill last Friday for a National Day of Action. The advocates visited their members of Congress to deliver an urgent message: We must guarantee home care workers the right to minimum wage and overtime pay. Meanwhile, hundreds of advocates across the nation delivered the same message in their home states, visiting members of Congress in their home offices, calling them on the phone, or signing petitions in support of the cause.

The event was sponsored by the Direct Care Alliance (DCA), in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Many other national and local organizations also participated, spreading the word to their constituents.

On Capitol Hill

The more than 50 people who met in Washington, D.C. started the day with a morning orientation session led by DCA’s National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz. Continue reading »

National Day of Action: Workers Advocate for their Profession

Posted by on September 25th, 2012 at 12:43 am | 1 Comment »

In her opening remarks last Friday morning in Washington, D.C., DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz urged the advocates heading to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action to speak from personal experience when they talked to legislators and their staff about why home care workers need Fair Labor Standards Act protections. “Your stories are very powerful,” she said, “and you can tell them best.”

Their stories aren’t the only tool in these advocates’ belts, but they are certainly one of the most powerful, as seen in the following excerpts from conversations held after their Hill visits with DCA Communications Advisor Elise Nakhnikian.

Timothy Doe (L) waiting to board a train to DC.

“At Senator Kyl’s office, the staff member we talked to knew about the bill. He said his aunt is a caregiver, so he knows how hard we work. He also asked us what we do as caregivers. We described it from the top to the bottom, and he was very impressed.”

— Home care worker and DCA member Timothy Doe, Tucson, Arizona


“I told him the demand is great and the jobs are growing, but we can’t attract new people because we can tell them the job is great but the money is not good.”

— Home care worker and DCA member Elizabeth Cross, Tucson, Arizona  Continue reading »

Health Care Documentary Highlights CNA’s Central Role

Posted by on September 17th, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Comments Off on Health Care Documentary Highlights CNA’s Central Role

Cynthia Y. Johnson

The Waiting Room captures the rhythms of life in an overburdened big-city emergency room—and demonstrates the crucial role direct care workers play in our health care system.

The film, which will have its theatrical premiere next week in New York City and LA after a series of community screenings, documents a dysfunctional system, showing how people without insurance must resort to the ER for chronic conditions that could easily be controlled if only they could afford to see a family doctor or buy needed medication. It’s a disturbing state of affairs, yet the movie feels hopeful, thanks to the kindness, competence and compassion of the staff and the lengths to which they go to help their patients.

Of all the caring professionals in The Waiting Room, none are more impressive, or more important, than Cynthia Y. Johnson, the CNA who manages the Oakland, California, waiting room of the title. Her unflappable competence, humor and warmth helps keep the crowded room running smoothly while infusing it with a crucial sense of humanity.  Continue reading »

A CNA’s Journey: From Healthy to Fragile in the Blink of an Eye

Posted by on September 17th, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Comments Off on A CNA’s Journey: From Healthy to Fragile in the Blink of an Eye

Peggy Arvanitas

Except for a few years when I sold real estate, I’ve been working in health care for my whole adult life–in a hospital pharmacy for over 12 years and then in home care as a CNA. Still I did not understand the despair that can be caused by illness and accidents until I became a “pre-existing condition” myself. The dancer is becoming the dance.

Last December, I was driving down a street when someone plowed into the passenger side of my car. It was another CNA, actually. She had just gotten out of the rehab center where she worked.

It felt like getting hit by a freight train. She smashed me about four feet into the oncoming traffic. I saw her coming a couple of seconds before I got hit, so I had time to grab the gear shift and jam it into park. That stopped me from going too far, but I got hit really hard. My car was over eight years old, so the steering wheel air bags never deployed. I had a type III concussion: I actually lost consciousness. I woke up slumped over a steering wheel with the horn blaring.  Continue reading »

Advocates Speak Out for Proposed Home Care Rule

Posted by on September 11th, 2012 at 9:11 am | Comments Off on Advocates Speak Out for Proposed Home Care Rule

Dean Lerner

Last week saw another healthy crop of strong editorials about the need to grant home care workers the right to minimum wage and overtime pay, including one that urges participation in our National Day of Action.

In “Latham Gets Thanked, But for What?,”  Des Moines Register columnist Dean Lerner dissects an ad that ran in the paper, “profusely thanking Iowa Congressman Tom Latham ‘for Supporting Home Healthcare for Iowa Seniors.’ ” The ad was paid for the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, whose members are primarily large national home care franchises. In fact, Lerner points out, Latham is anything but helping the cause of home care, as he cosponsored the bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting the rule that guarantees home care workers minimum wage and overtime pay. Lerner then explains why granting home care workers basic labor rights is good for the elders and people with disabilities who rely on them.  Continue reading »

Florida Caregivers to Walk a Mile in Clients’ Shoes

Posted by on September 11th, 2012 at 8:11 am | Comments Off on Florida Caregivers to Walk a Mile in Clients’ Shoes

CNA/HHA and FPACG President Joan Leah

Florida caregivers can expand their knowledge, meet other people in their field, and feel celebrated as the professionals they are at the 17th annual convention of the Florida Professional Association of Care Givers (FPACG) next month. The convention will be held on October 16 in Altamonte Springs.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Walk A Mile In My Shoes, the event will provide several opportunities for direct care workers to see things from the perspective of the people they assist. In her keynote address, Dr. Lisa Brown, a clinical psychologist who teaches in the School of Aging Studies at the University of Tampa, will explore the strengths and weaknesses of aging. In an afternoon session, attendees will have an opportunity to experience how it feels to lose your senses such as eyesight and hearing and how it feels to use durable equipment like wheelchairs. Those who attend this session will also learn skills to help maximize the comfort for those they care for.  Continue reading »

Labor Day Weekend Editorials Celebrate Workers, Call for Changes

Posted by on September 4th, 2012 at 7:34 am | Comments Off on Labor Day Weekend Editorials Celebrate Workers, Call for Changes

Lateef McLeod

An editorial in Friday’s Huffington Post kicked off a Labor Day weekend in which publications nationwide ran opinion pieces about the progress made by American workers and the distance we still need to travel.

The Huffington Post piece, which is titled “Let’s Not Make Home Care Workers Wait Any Longer for Their Rights,” is by poet and blogger Lateef McLeod, who has cerebral palsy and has employed home care workers for most of his life. He calls on his readers to join him in urging the Obama Administration to extend Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections to home care workers without further delay. Making sure home care workers are paid fairly is not just in the best interest of the workers and their families, writes McLeod. “Those of us who rely on home attendants need to know we can count on getting consistent, high-quality support and care, and that means making this a job people can commit to for the long term without putting their own health or their family budget in jeopardy.”  Continue reading »

Direct Care Work and the Circle of Life

Posted by on September 4th, 2012 at 7:27 am | 1 Comment »

Fermina Lopez

I was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, where I lived until about 20 years ago. I was an accountant there, working as the administrative manager for a supermarket.

I came here for the American dream, to make a better life for my family. I have five children. Almost as soon as I started working here I earned more than I ever had.

It was hard to find a job when we first came here. I had to take the thing I could get, and the first thing I got was direct care work. I had been helping a friend when I realized I could get paid for doing the same kind of work for other people. I had two jobs: as a caregiver and as a seamstress.

My goal at the time was to go to college and get a good education so I could get the kind of job I had had back in Mexico, but as time passed and I kept working as a caregiver, I started loving my job. You get so involved with the people you care for. I don’t want to leave them.  Continue reading »