Today in Washington, D.C., DCA joined with allies from AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Caring Across Generations, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, NCLR,the National Employment Law Proiect, PHI and SEIU to celebrate home care workers and the rule that will give them minimum wage and overtime protections. This is the toast I gave there, on behalf of DCA.
I would like to thank President Obama, Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for meeting with and listening to the people who do this work every day and the people we serve.
I remember when I stood with President Obama as he announced the proposed rule in December of 2011. I was proud to hear him speak about my profession with such respect. That night I felt like I could fly back to Wisconsin without boarding the plane. I had the same feeling last week when the final rule was announced. Thank you again!
I want to thank all my fellow direct care workers who took up the fight and wrote letters, made calls, signed petitions and rallied the troops to do the same. Without them these regulations would not have been finalized. I recently read a quote that hit home: “It is hard to win against someone who never gives up.” Well, we never gave up! This rule is a beginning. It is the first step in direct care workers being respected and recognized for the important work that we do.
I would like to recognize Evelyn Coke, the home care worker who took her case for overtime pay all the way to the Supreme Court. I want to thank former Secretary Solis, a champion for workers, and Leonila Vega, the first executive director of Direct Care Alliance. She had a dream, and she helped a lot of us workers believe in ourselves and in the importance of speaking up and telling our stories. She is smiling down on us today and saying: “Job well done!”
I also want to thank Carla Washington for taking the helm of Direct Care Alliance this year and seeing this fight through to the end. She believes in empowering us workers to speak for ourselves. And I thank David Ward and Jessica Brill Ortiz, the national advocacy staff who led the fight for DCA and helped lead it for the coalition.
I remember when I attended DCA’s Voices Institute in 2008. I was appalled that home care workers in other states were not guaranteed the basic labor protections of minimum wage and overtime pay that we Wisconsin home care workers can depend on. I found something to fight for that week.
As I think back over the years and all the hard work, it was most definitely worth it! I know DCA will keep on fighting until direct care work is recognized for the important work that it is, and we direct care workers are treated with respect and are fairly compensated.