Posted by Direct Care Alliance on March 25th, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Comments Off on Paying Tribute to Leonila
There were cheers and tears in the ballroom of the building that houses the Direct Care Alliance, as people gathered on March 19 to honor the memory of Leonila Vega. (To learn more about Leonila, visit our new tribute page about her.)
Nearly all the direct care workers and advocates in the room were friends or colleagues of Leonila’s. Most were both, since Leonila had a gift for working with people she loved and loving the people she worked with. DCA is deeply grateful to all who attended and supported the event, as well as for all the love and support from our friends and colleagues over the past several months.
Direct care worker advocates Timothy Doe, Brenda Nachtway, Tracy Dudzinski and Joan Leah paid tribute to Leonila at the event, thanking her for the inspiration, support and faith in their abilities that helped make committed advocates of them all. All are graduates of the Voices Institute, which has now been renamed the Leonila Vega Voices Institute. Continue reading »
I’m the president and CEO of Catalina In-Home Services in Tucson, Arizona. We offer personal care and support services. Our clients are all private pay. We have about 65 caregivers, who we call professional direct care workers. They all have formal training, and the majority are certified nursing assistants.
When I started the company in 1981, I felt very strongly that we were going to have to offer benefits if we were going to be able to be competitive in terms of being able to recruit and retain the best. So we have always offered paid time off. We call it paid time off rather than paid sick days because you can also use it for vacation or personal time. And if you’d rather cash it out than use it, you can do that too. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on March 19th, 2013 at 8:15 am | Comments Off on Join DCA and Let Your Legislators Know You Care About Your Profession
During my 28 years as a direct care worker, I made a lot of time for advocacy work because it was important to me and I could fit it into my schedule. I also got to know countless home care workers, nursing assistants, personal care attendants, and other direct workers who could not fit time for advocacy into their overcrowded lives, or who simply weren’t interested in public speaking or talking to politicians. But, like me, they take pride in their work and want to see things get better for themselves and the people they care for.
We talk so much in this blog about going to rallies or visiting legislators to advocate for better working conditions, wages, and benefits for direct care workers that you may get the impression that’s what being a DCA member is all about. Continue reading »
Posted by Valda Spence on March 11th, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Comments Off on Advocating for Medicaid Expansion in Texas: I Am a Rock, Not a Pebble
Doing advocacy work is like knocking stones together: the more stones you have, the more noise you can make. I don’t want to just tap a couple of pebbles together; I want to grab a whole handful of big rocks and make a righteous noise.
I headed up to Austin last week with a group of direct care workers brought together by Direct Care Alliance. We were there for a March 5 day of advocating for Medicaid, the government program that provides health insurance for low-income people, and I had been asked to be one of the featured speakers at the rally.
It was my first time in Austin, and my first time ever to attend a rally, let alone speak at one. I was very excited to be given such a good opportunity to make my voice heard about something I care deeply about. Continue reading »
When you work as a direct care worker, you often don’t know the right thing to do. People’s needs are complex and few of us have advanced knowledge of applied behavior analysis. And even if we did, it would still be hard.
At the day program where I work I support an autistic man. By trying different things, we’ve worked out a schedule together. We bring bottles to the redemption center, listen to music on the headphones at the Bates College library, go mall walking, go bowling, bring the trash bags to the bin and do puzzles in the quiet room.
I try to make the expectations clear. “We stay with our team mates.” “We clean up after ourselves.” “We use an indoor voice.” “After we’ve helped John Russell for an hour at the Food Bank we can go get a soda.”
Last Friday, on the first day of Women’s History Month, I attended a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the proposed rule to end the exclusion of home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections. It has been 14 months since I stood behind the President when he announced the rule as one of his “we can’t wait” initiatives. I hope my fellow home care workers and I won’t have to wait much longer, now that the rule is with OMB for the last step in the review process.
The meeting started with a summary of why we were there. The OMB representative started asking questions, and you could tell she had been talking to people from groups that oppose the rule. We explained that extending these basic rights to home care workers would improve care and recognize this work as a real job.
When it was my turn to speak, I told them it was an insult to be excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act. I said being a home care worker was a real job and a difficult job. I also said I didn’t understand why, when I worked in a nursing home. I had these basic protections, but now that I worked in home care I did not. I explained that when I worked at the nursing home I was supervised, so I actually use a higher set of skills in home care than when I worked in the nursing home. Something here just doesn’t add up. I explained that I am not a companion; I am doing intimate personal care with the consumers I serve. Companions do not do what I do.
After the meeting the OMB person came up to me and thanked me for being there and sharing my story. She also thanked me for the work I do and said she understands better now what I do and the importance of what we do. All in all, I feel that we made a difference and gave the OMB more to think about. We had real people there telling our stories, not high-paid lobbyists.
I hope that next time I attend a meeting about this rule, it will be to celebrate some long-overdue changes.
It has been more than a year since President Obama announced that the proposed rule would guarantee those rights, ending the classification of home care workers as mere “companions” and therefore ineligible for FLSA protections, the editorial notes, and “There is a real danger that in this late round the long fight to extend basic labor protections to home care workers could be lost. That would be a great injustice.” Continue reading »
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