Archive for April, 2013

Boston Home Care Workers Go Extra Mile After Marathon Bombing

Posted by on April 29th, 2013 at 8:10 pm | 2 Comments »
Mabel Nvule

Mabel Nvule

The Boston Marathon bombing was a tragic reminder of the harm that can be caused by individuals determined to do so. It was also a reminder of the incredible courage and resilience that people and communities show in the wake of an attack. There have been numerous stories about the heroic acts of runners, volunteers, spectators, and first responders who quickly aided the victims, and in the days that followed, police worked tirelessly to make Boston safe again.

With the city in lockdown, direct care workers rose to the occasion as well. Many chose to stay on the job long beyond their scheduled shifts, leaving their own family members at home and suppressing their panic to help their clients get through that terrifying experience.

Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers Form DCA Chapter in Houston Area

Posted by on April 29th, 2013 at 7:14 pm | 1 Comment »
Lucille Daniels

Lucille Daniels

Valda Spence

Valda Spence

A new regional chapter of Direct Care Alliance was formed last week when a group of Houston-area direct care workers came together to launch the Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance for Direct Care Workers.

The group’s next meeting will be in mid-June, according to co-chair Lucille Daniels, who works at an adult day center and provides home care. “Our biggest focus is the direct care workers who have very little pay and no benefits—no health insurance or paid time off. We also want to work on Medicaid expansion,” she says. The group also plans to invite guest speakers to some of its meetings. Continue reading »

What I Told the White House About Why We Home Care Workers Need Fair Pay

Posted by on April 23rd, 2013 at 8:01 am | 6 Comments »
Charlean Nichols (L) with other home care workers and clients at OMB

Charlean Nichols (L) with other home care workers and clients at OMB

Earlier this month, I got an opportunity I had never dreamed of when I started doing home care three years ago. I went to Washington, D.C. with Direct Care Alliance and other advocates to tell people at the White House Office of Management and Budget why we home care workers need the same basic rights as other health care workers. Nursing assistants in nursing homes are guaranteed minimum wage and overtime pay, but we home care workers aren’t, and that’s not right.

It’s been more than a year since President Obama announced proposed regulations to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to us home care workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The regulations haven’t been enacted yet, and some people are starting to worry that they won’t be. We went to the budget office while it was reviewing the rules to explain why they are so important to us. Continue reading »

Stakeholder Stories Explain Need for Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay

Posted by on April 18th, 2013 at 11:05 am | 5 Comments »

storybook coverA resource released today explains how all home care stakeholders—clients and their family members, employers and workers—will benefit once home care workers are assured the right to minimum wage and overtime pay. Produced by PHI and announced at a conference call for members of the media hosted by PHI, DCA and other members of the campaign to win these basic rights, We Can’t Wait! is a collection of testimonials gathered by DCA and our allies.

A few facts and statistics about the regulations and the home care workforce are sprinkled throughout the 68-page publication, but it is almost entirely devoted to dozens of stories from key home care stakeholders.

That makes We Can’t Wait! a powerful tool for advocates of the rule change, and a useful resource for reporters and others who want to better understand what is at stake. To quote its introduction: “at its core this is about real people—men and women, elders and people with disabilities who need the assistance of home care workers to live independently and with dignity. It is about the home care workers themselves, who care deeply about their clients, but must also support their own families. They work long hours and often two jobs but still must rely on public assistance to make ends meet. It is also about employers trying to do the right thing and pay fair wages but who find themselves at a competitive disadvantage with those exploiting the companionship exemption to maximize profits. These are their stories.”

We Can’t Wait! was funded by the Ford Foundation.

Employers: Sign Up Your Workers to Become DCA Members

Posted by on April 15th, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Comments Off on Employers: Sign Up Your Workers to Become DCA Members
Brenda Nachtway

Brenda Nachtway

The people I know who own or manage home care agencies, nursing homes, hospices and other places that provide long-term care and services are always looking for ways to give their direct care workers a little something extra, to show that they know how hard they work and how important they are. Nursing assistant appreciation days, staff picnics, and gas cards are all good ways to thank your staff, but I have another idea for you: Pay their annual fees to join Direct Care Alliance.

For $25 a year, you can enroll your employees in a professional association, introducing them to a national network of advocates working to improve direct care jobs and the quality of care direct care workers can provide—and to a local support network as well, if there’s one in your area. They’ll get our free weekly newsletter, which is full of inspiring news about developments in direct care and testimonials from direct care workers. They’ll have opportunities to share their own stories. And they’ll get benefits like a $3,000 basic term life, accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy, medical discounts, and priority access to our Voices Institute trainings.  Continue reading »

Advocates Urge OMB to Complete Review of Home Care Rule

Posted by on April 15th, 2013 at 5:10 pm | 2 Comments »
Janis Durick

Janis Durick

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reached the 90-day deadline today for its review of the proposed regulations to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, but the regulations are still pending.  Meanwhile, advocates–including some who recently met with OMB staff–continue to urge the White House to finalize the regulations soon.

Writing for The Hill’s Congress blog on April 11, Direct Care Alliance Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski and Caring Across Generations co-director Ai-jen Poo pay tribute to Frances Perkins, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor and the first female cabinet member in U.S. history.

Perkins and FDR worked together to enact FLSA, but they had to exclude the mainly African-American domestic and agricultural workforces from the bill in order to gain the support they needed from Southern senators. Continue reading »

Join DCA in Welcoming Our New Executive Director

Posted by on April 10th, 2013 at 10:02 am | 1 Comment »
Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

I am delighted to introduce Carla Washington as Executive Director of Direct Care Alliance. Carla will be coming on board at the end of this month. She is excited to be joining us and looks forward to working with the board and staff to grow the movement to improve direct care jobs.

Carla is a multi-talented leader and a passionate advocate for low-income workers and their families. What’s more, as the daughter of a career CNA, she has a lifelong respect for direct care work and the people who do it and a deep understanding of the rewards and challenges we direct care workers encounter every day.

She comes to DCA from the national headquarters of the Alliance for Children and Families in Milwaukee, where she was director of an initiative aimed at strengthening the human services provided to older adults. Continue reading »

Q&A with Carla D. Washington

Posted by on April 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am | 1 Comment »

On April 29, Carla D. Washington will join Direct Care Alliance (DCA) as our new Executive Director. She talked last week to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about what drew her to DCA and what she would like to see direct care workers accomplish in the coming years.

Carla D. Washington

Carla D. Washington

Your mother was a CNA for many years. Is that why the idea of coming to DCA sparked your interest?

Yes. Then I started to do some research on DCA, and I saw the depth of information and organizing it was involved in around direct care workers.

My nonprofit career has always been about working with low-income individuals and families, helping them have a better quality of life. I love getting information into the hands of disenfranchised people who might not otherwise have access to it—sometimes information for the sake of knowledge, but mostly information for the sake of action. DCA is absolutely a great fit for me in that regard.

How long did your mother work as a CNA?

Nearly 30 years. She worked for 10 years in a nursing home and then she moved to the local Veteran’s Administration hospital here in Milwaukee. She worked there for 19 years until she retired five years ago. Continue reading »

How to Make the World a Better Place

Posted by on April 8th, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Comments Off on How to Make the World a Better Place
David Moreau

David Moreau

Toby stands at the door of the red Dodge van

holding the field trip bag in one hand and five

matchbox cars in the other, including the well-loved

number three black Chevy Dale Earnhardt car.

You wait for him to open the door.


He tugs on the handle a couple of times,

but can’t get a grip with the cars in his hand.

At this point if he were to ask for help

you would help, for asking is a good thing

and the words don’t come easy to him. Continue reading »

Why Respect Matters to Us Direct Care Workers

Posted by on April 8th, 2013 at 9:09 pm | 2 Comments »
Melva Proctor

Melva Proctor

I love my job, but it hurts me to see how little respect most of us get for doing it, and how little so many of us direct care workers are paid.

The average hourly wage for nursing assistants in nursing homes and hospitals is less than $12 an hour. I do better than that, but I’m still just a paycheck away from eviction. At the nursing home where I work full-time, they don’t allow us much overtime to keep costs down, so I very seldom get overtime pay. I have to work part-time at another nursing home to make ends meet.

My two sons still live with me—one just moved back home and one never left. One of my boys works, but I have to help him out because the cost of living is so high.

Continue reading »

Paid Sick Days Movement Wins Major Victory in New York City

Posted by on April 2nd, 2013 at 9:06 am | Comments Off on Paid Sick Days Movement Wins Major Victory in New York City

psd graphic from National PartnershipThe movement to win paid sick leave for the nation’s workers won a major victory in New York City last week, when an agreement was reached on a bill that would require all employers in the city with at least 15 employees to give their full-time workers five paid sick days a year. A similar victory was just won in Portland, Oregon, and the Philadelphia city council recently passed a paid sick days bill.

The Philadelphia and New York City bills have not yet been enacted, and both city’s mayors are expected to veto them. Support from New York’s city council is expected to be strong enough to override the veto, but Philadelphia was one vote shy of a strong enough majority to override a mayoral veto. Continue reading »

What Being a Professional Caregiver Means to Me

Posted by on April 2nd, 2013 at 8:44 am | 4 Comments »
Gertrude Hii

Gertrude Hii

Like a lot of other direct care workers, I found my way to my career through caring for a member of my own family.

Three years ago, my husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and entered into hospice care. Three times a week, a certified nursing assistant would come give him a shower or bed bath and then sit with him for half an hour or so, chatting and giving him the love and attention he so needed to brighten his days. He looked forward to their visits, and I could not imagine how we would have coped without them.

One day, a CNA was giving him a bed bath when it came to me: I could do this. I could work in this field and bring joy, peace and love to people during the last days or years of their lives. When my husband’s passing made it imperative for me to look for work, I got my CNA certificate and started working as a professional caregiver. Getting trained and certified was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Of course, entering a new client’s home is very different than caring for your own husband. That part took some getting used to. It still does, since every new client means adjusting to a new environment and forming a new relationship.

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