Archive for January, 2013

Why My Husband Wishes I’d Choose a Different Profession

Posted by on January 28th, 2013 at 7:02 pm | 2 Comments »

Gabriele Swe (standing) with a client.

I have been a direct care worker for about 10 years. I truly believe we make a difference in the lives of elders and the sick. I love my work and I get paid well for it, but I don’t get paid sick time or paid holidays.

I came here from Germany when I was 25. I didn’t speak any English. I was married to a military man, who brought me here. At first, I just took care of my husband and my house. I volunteered at a thrift shop just to get out, but I was very shy and always worried that I would say the wrong thing.

Then I got divorced and moved to Seattle. I started in a warehouse because I didn’t speak English well. Then I was hired by a large eye care company, where I was promoted to Quality Control Technician until the company moved out of state.

I went to a retraining center, where they tested me and suggested becoming a patient care technician. I always liked working with people, and I really love elderly people—I was 11 or 12 when my grandmother passed away, and up to then I was always with her, even when she was really ill. So I went into the PCT program and then went to work in a nursing home. Continue reading »

There’s Still Time to Bring Back Tax Credit Lost in the “Fiscal Cliff” Deal

Posted by on January 28th, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Comments Off on There’s Still Time to Bring Back Tax Credit Lost in the “Fiscal Cliff” Deal

Shawn Fremstad

As DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz recently explained, the “fiscal cliff” deal signed by President Obama earlier this month contained both good news and bad news for direct care workers. Its most immediate effect will be a drop in take-home pay, as payroll taxes take a bigger bite out of workers’ incomes in 2013 than they have for the last four years.

In 2009-2010, workers benefited from the Making Work Pay provision of the Recovery Act, which provided a tax credit of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly. Most workers received the benefit of the Making Work Pay Credit through larger paychecks, reflecting reduced federal income tax withholding. Like the earned income tax credit (EITC), the Making Work Pay credit was refundable, meaning that workers could receive it even if they earned too little to pay any federal income tax.

A permanent Making Work Pay credit was a centerpiece of President Obama’s tax reform agenda when he ran for President in 2008. However, after conservatives won control of the House in 2010, they made it clear that they opposed an extension of Making Work Pay. The Administration responded by proposing that payroll taxes be temporarily reduced, from 6.2 percent of earnings to 4.2 percent, for 2011-2012. House conservatives agreed to the reduction, which helped low- and moderate-income workers somewhat but provided less financial help than Making Work Pay did, as Citizens for Tax Justice explained in a recent fact sheet.

The fiscal cliff deal let the temporary payroll tax cut expire without bringing back The Making Work Pay tax credit. Continue reading »

This Little Light of Mine

Posted by on January 22nd, 2013 at 9:01 am | 1 Comment »

David Moreau

My friend Toby loves to sing This Old Man.

Over and over arms waving

down the hallway and into the cafeteria

and back again twice,



the words loud and not quite right.  Continue reading »

Honor Dr. King’s Vision by Giving Home Care Workers Our Due

Posted by on January 21st, 2013 at 3:57 pm | 2 Comments »

By LaDonna Williams and Lucille Daniels

LaDonna Williams

Lucille Daniels

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” His words were never truer than in the case of home care workers like us, who provide hands-on care, services and support to millions of Americans.

For one thing, there’s a clear link between the quality of our jobs and the quality of care we can provide. We see a lot of people come and go in our profession, and we know how hard that is on their clients, who have to keep getting used to new caregivers. But we also know how hard it can be to commit to this profession, even when you love it, if the pay is so poor it’s hard to provide for your own family.  Continue reading »

Health Care Workers Deserve Health Care

Posted by on January 15th, 2013 at 11:11 am | Comments Off on Health Care Workers Deserve Health Care

Mohan Varghese

“I, and many fellow South Dakota direct care workers, do not have health insurance. Imagine that. In a country as great and as wealthy as the U.S., health care workers must do without health care,” writes DCA member and home care worker Mohan Varghese in an editorial published last week.

Varghese’s editorial, which was published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, calls on South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to “do the right thing for us and other hard-working South Dakotans by expanding our state Medicaid program” under the Affordable Care Act.

The governor has said he is opposed to the idea of expanding Medicaid, though doing so would provide affordable health care coverage for thousands of South Dakotan direct care and other low-wage workers–those who earn a little too much to qualify for current Medicaid coverage but too little to afford private insurance premiums.

DCA Statement About U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ Resignation

Posted by on January 10th, 2013 at 3:30 pm | 1 Comment »

Secretary Solis

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis announced her resignation yesterday, addressing the privilege she felt working in the Department of Labor (DOL) and with colleagues outside the Department to bring about crucial and substantive changes for U.S. workers. Direct Care Alliance (DCA) and its national network of direct care workers and other allied stakeholders greatly appreciate Secretary Solis’ leadership on issues affecting direct care workers during her tenure with the DOL. We are saddened to learn of her resignation.

Secretary Solis demonstrated her commitment when she responded to the demands of workers and other advocates by publishing DOL’s proposed rule to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. Winning these basic labor protections for home care workers is a top priority for DCA and many of our allies, and we appreciate her steadfast support. Continue reading »

How the New Budget Deal Affects Direct Care Workers

Posted by on January 7th, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Comments Off on How the New Budget Deal Affects Direct Care Workers

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed by Congress on January 1, 2013, and signed into law by President Obama on January 2. The legislation, often referred to as the deal to prevent the United States from going over a “fiscal cliff,” includes several provisions that will have a significant impact on direct care workers.


The new law extends tax cuts for more than 100 million families who earn less than $250,000 a year. This presumably includes virtually all direct care workers, since the median annual wage for a direct care worker is $17,000. The cuts had been set to end this month.

It also ends a temporary Social Security tax cut that has been in effect for the past two years. Incomes will decrease as this payroll tax rises, creating additional financial hardship for low-wage workers. However, the additional taxes are a contribution to workers’ retirement fund and will strengthen the Social Security program for future retirees. Continue reading »

An Economists’-Eye View of Why We Don’t Value Caregiving Enough

Posted by on January 7th, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Comments Off on An Economists’-Eye View of Why We Don’t Value Caregiving Enough

A recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant for her groundbreaking explorations of care work, labor economist Nancy Folbre is a regular contributor to the New York Times’ Economix blog, for which she often writes about caregiving. Her latest multi-author book, For Love and Money, which she edited and cowrote, looks at both paid and unpaid care of children, older adults, and children and adults with disabilities. The book argues that these forms of caregiving are severely underpaid and undervalued, though they make up a vital and enormous part of our economy. DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian interviewed Professor Folbre about the book via email.

Nancy Folbre

Your book raises some “pointed questions,” as you put it, about care work, starting with why women continue to do most of it, both paid and unpaid. What did you and your coauthors conclude about that?

We argue that some intrinsic features of care work contribute to its undervaluation in the market. On the supply side, caregivers often initially feel, or gradually develop, emotional attachment to those they care for, which reduces their “bargaining power.” On the demand side, those who need care the most are often the least able to pay for it.

Do you think the fact that caregiving has traditionally been thought of as “women’s work” is a large part of the reason why the wages and benefits are generally so poor? Or are other factors more to blame?

Is care underpaid because women do most of it, or are women less economically powerful than men because they specialize in care? This is not an either/or question, but a chicken and egg question.  Continue reading »

Invest in Direct Care Jobs to Strengthen U.S. Economy

Posted by on January 3rd, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Comments Off on Invest in Direct Care Jobs to Strengthen U.S. Economy

 In a piece in today’s Huffington Post, DCA’s David Ward introduces our 2013 Congressional Agenda and explains why investing in direct care jobs is an important and effective way of strengthening our economy.

David Ward

The 113th Congress starts work today with a mandate from voters to rebuild our economy. While we’ve made some progress over the past four years, there is clear bipartisan agreement that we have not made enough. High unemployment and poverty persist, 93 percent of the wealth created in 2010-2011 went to the top 1 percent, and the greatest job growth over the next few years is projected to occur in low-wage sectors like direct care, where 47 percent of the workforce relies on public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid to make ends meet.

So what are we going to do about this problem? The budget deal that was just passed aims to reduce our national debt. Deficit reduction is an important step toward rebuilding the American economy, but it’s no silver bullet. The best way to reduce debt over the long term is to get people to work in quality jobs, where they can earn enough to pay for food and health care rather than being forced to rely on public benefits.

Over the past few years, Congress and the Obama Administration have pursued job creation initiatives that focus on improvements to our nation’s infrastructure, education, and green jobs. These are important actions to take, but they continue to ignore what is the fastest growing and is projected to become the largest sector of our economy by 2020: the direct care workforce.

Read the rest of David’s piece.

Growing the Movement in 2013

Posted by on January 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am | Comments Off on Growing the Movement in 2013

Tracy Dudzinski

As I look back on all that DCA has accomplished in 2012, I can’t wait to see what we’ll get done in 2013. I truly believe that the growing wave of aging baby boomers is about to meet up with the growing pressure from DCA and our many wonderful allies to create a perfect storm of awareness, a storm that will finally push our issue—the need for better care quality for elders and people with disabilities and better job quality for the direct care workers they depend on—onto the national agenda.

2012 was a busy year. Our movement lost a great champion when Leonila passed away in November, but we will celebrate her legacy by remaining committed to training and supporting direct care worker leaders and growing our movement to make their voices heard and direct care a respected profession. Continue reading »