Archive for ‘Advocacy’

Home Care Workers Rising

Posted by on October 14th, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Comments Off on Home Care Workers Rising

forest of signs 2The following photos and stories are from the Voices Institute graduates, several of whom were also DCA board members, who represented Direct Care Alliance and their profession at the Home Care Workers Rising summit. The summit was hosted by Caring Across Generations in St. Louis on October 6 and 7.

It Rekindled the Fight in Me

I was fortunate to be invited to the Home Care Workers Rising summit by the Direct Care Alliance board of directors. The summit brought together members of the SEIU, AFSCME, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Hand in Hand, Caring Across Generations, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice to spark and rekindle the Home Care Worker fight for a job that is respected, pays a living wage, includes benefits and paid time off. We were home care workers and consumers, all sharing and learning what each other were doing in the fight to improve home care jobs.  Continue reading »

DCA Maine forms Partnership with Maine People’s Alliance

Posted by on July 31st, 2014 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on DCA Maine forms Partnership with Maine People’s Alliance

image for david moreau storyDCA Maine has a long history of empowering direct care workers to speak up and voice their concerns on issues regarding their work.  Members have testified before legislative committees, spoken with our elected representatives in Congress and taken part in work groups and coalitions to improve the conditions of direct care work.

Notable successes include two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); one for helping direct care workers to obtain health insurance through their employers and another for training direct care workers on core competencies so they can easily transfer from one population to another.  We are also proud of being part of the campaign to remove the companionship exemption for home care workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But a lot still needs to be done to create a world where direct care workers receive adequate pay, support and training to do the work we love. So when Direct Care Alliance let us know it had run out of out of funding, we looked for another group that could support our work.  Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on June 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

Punitive managers and overreliance on rigid rules foster bad patterns of interaction in nursing homes, harming resident care and staff satisfaction—but there are methods managers can use to encourage positive interactions between staff.

Delay the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers even longer? Home care workers deserve better, and so do consumers.

Watch Respect: The Joy of Aides, a wonderful 20-minute documentary by Eva Sweeney, a woman with CP, about how to hire and manage aides and what it’s like when a direct care worker and a client work well together.

Good news for home care worker wages: a 5% pay raise in Minnesota, home care workers fighting for fair wages all across America, and rallies in Cleveland and Boston, where home care workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage for their profession.  Continue reading »

Why It’s Crucial to Make the Link Between Better Jobs and Better Care

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:51 pm | 3 Comments »

Deborah Little is the chair of the Sociology department at Adelphi University. Her chapter in Caring on the Clock, a book on direct care work that is due out this fall from Rutgers, looks at DCA’s work to support and empower direct care worker advocates. She recently talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about what strategies are most effective and why.

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

What got you interested in this topic?

I was hired by DCA to do an evaluation of the pilot senior CNA project that started three years ago. As part of that, Leonila [Vega] invited me to attend a national Voices Institute in Wisconsin, because five participants from the senior CNA project attended that year. At the Voices Institute, I got very interested in the organizing and empowerment work that DCA was doing. I took extensive field notes during the Voices Institute, and spent a lot of time speaking with participants in informal interviews. After that, I expanded my research to look at the DCA blog and the literature on organizing direct care workers.

What got me interested in this topic was a moment that I talk about at the beginning of the paper, where one of the workers at the Voices Institute was willing to give up a wage increase because she thought it would be difficult for her clients to afford the extra cost. I thought, how can this be? How can she not readily see the connection between the quality of her job and the quality of the care she is giving? And how can she be so willing to sacrifice her own needs and the needs of her family? Continue reading »

Speaking Up for the Profession I Love

Posted by on April 6th, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Comments Off on Speaking Up for the Profession I Love
Peg Ankney

Peg Ankney

About a month ago, DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz invited me to attend a March 25 advocacy day in Washington DC. The day was organized by Caring Across Generations, a movement of family members, workers, and others advocating for a system of quality, dignified care. I did some work with Caring Across last year through DCA, which is a member of their leadership team. I was impressed by their ethics and the work they are doing to improve our long-term care system, for both consumers and workers.

I wanted to visit the Capitol because of what I have already been experiencing in my state of Pennsylvania–and I am definitely not alone!

I’ve been a direct care worker for almost 40 years, 25 of them in home care. During the past 10 years I have witnessed a critical depletion in my workforce as demand grows. Because our senior population is living longer, there’s been a huge increase in the need for direct care workers who are passionate as well as compassionate, but too many of the trainees I see coming into the field have no heart for the profession. Instead, they see it only as something to pay the bills, or a stepping stone to something “better,” like a career as a nurse. Continue reading »

The New Face of Our Economy: Direct Care Workers

Posted by on January 13th, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Comments Off on The New Face of Our Economy: Direct Care Workers
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

Fifty years into the war on poverty, it’s time to focus on direct care workers, explains DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz in the Huffington Post.

“As we work to advance the goals of the war on poverty, improving the economic security of direct care workers and their families should be at the top of the list, because improving direct care workers’ wages, benefits and career advancement opportunities will let us accomplish three important goals,” writes Jessica in The New Face of Our Economy.  “We can help ensure a stable, qualified direct care workforce large enough to meet growing demand. We can transform one of our fastest-growing job categories so that it bolsters our middle class and strengthens our economy instead of swelling the ranks of the working poor. And we can deliver on the promise of a nation where hard work is rewarded and respected.

Her piece outlines several current and pending policy initiatives that will help accomplish those goals.

Home Care Worker Fights for the Right to Assist Clients

Posted by on December 3rd, 2013 at 9:55 am | Comments Off on Home Care Worker Fights for the Right to Assist Clients
Trumeko Foxx

Trumeko Foxx

On October 4, Nashville home care worker Trumeko Foxx and librarian Exie Mai Harrington, along with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU Local 205, filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee. The suit challenged emergency rules that placed harsh restrictions on anyone who takes part in or facilitates public education about the new health care marketplaces or insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the rules, which are now expected to be rewritten by early next year. Trumeko Foxx and Local 205 Political Director Freda Player talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about why they fought for this victory and what it means to home care workers and their clients.

How did this get started?

Freda: It started with the union. We were concerned about the emergency rules and how they would affect our members who work in social services. We knew they helped their clients a lot with things like medical bills and doctor visits and with finding medical help, and we knew it would be hard for them to assist their clients while following the rules as they were written.

We wanted to show that people could be fined a thousand dollars just for doing their everyday daily work, and a) they couldn’t afford it and b) it wasn’t fair because they were just doing their jobs.

How did Trumeko get involved?

Freda: Trumeko worked in health care and was a leader in our union. We felt that she would be a natural fit, so we approached her and asked if she’d be interested in getting involved.

Trumeko: When Freda called me and let me know what was going on, I was like: Wow! You can get fined for doing that? I had assisted my clients with what we call TennCare here in Tennessee, which is a kind of insurance. Continue reading »

Why I Advocate for Medicaid Expansion

Posted by on October 8th, 2013 at 9:13 am | 1 Comment »
Vernell Simmons

Vernell Simmons

Last month, I traveled from my home in Houston to Austin to meet with people from nonprofit organizations around Texas. I represented Direct Care Alliance and our local chapter, the Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance. Many groups were represented—low-income children, people with mental illness, and so on. We were all there to talk about how to support implementation of the Affordable Care Act–including getting Texas to expand its Medicaid program.

I am currently caring for two private-duty clients in my job as a home care aide. To pay the bills and get affordable health insurance, I have to work full-time at another job, as a claims assistant in my regional VA office. Most of my co-workers and friends who are home care workers do not have any health insurance, because they are either employed by individuals who can’t provide them with coverage or by agencies that do not offer it. In Texas we have the highest percentage of uninsured people in the country. That is why I am an advocate for getting Medicaid expansion passed in the state of Texas. We need to get these people insured. Continue reading »

Celebrating a Major Battle Won

Posted by on September 23rd, 2013 at 7:13 pm | 5 Comments »

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.

Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

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! Continue reading »

On Monday, Join a National Day of Action for Time to Care

Posted by on August 23rd, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Comments Off on On Monday, Join a National Day of Action for Time to Care

9to5 logoMonday, August 26, is Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the day American women finally won the right to vote. To celebrate that milestone, DCA ally organization 9to5 is holding a Day of Action to support family-friendly workplace policies and expand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA, which was implemented 20 years ago this month, allows some employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their own illness, an ill family member, or a new baby. This was a huge victory that has helped millions of working families, but it was meant to be just a first step, since FMLA provides only unpaid leave and covers less than half of the private sector workforce.

Most issues that affect women’s rights in the workplace are important to direct care workers because about nine out of every ten direct care workers is a woman. Making FMLA more accessible and affordable is no exception to that rule. Far too many direct care workers are unable to take the time they need to deal with a serious illness or care for a family member, either because they don’t qualify for FMLA protection or because they can’t afford to take unpaid time off.

Here’s how you can participate in 9to5’s Day of Action: Continue reading »

How I Became a Direct Care Worker Advocate

Posted by on August 12th, 2013 at 12:22 pm | 3 Comments »
Sunny Smith

Sunny Smith

I’ve worked as a professional direct care worker for more than 25 years, off and on (mostly on), between other jobs. In-home caregiving is where I’m most happy. I feel, as most of us do, that it’s a calling. But just because we love our work doesn’t mean we should have to live in poverty, go on food stamps or rely on Medicaid. We deserve basic benefits like paid sick time and affordable health care. Many of us are left out of those basic benefits due to a lack of understanding, appreciation and respect for our work. And, through no fault of our own, lack of training often causes safety issues for our clients and ourselves.

About five years ago, I was offered the opportunity to join the Arizona Direct Care Worker Association, a grassroots professional organization. I said yes immediately and wrote a check for a whopping $10 a year. You see, I knew what it means to be a part of an association. Yes, the benefits I now had access to were worthwhile, but more than that, I wanted to be part of a professional association just like any other professional, from nurses to attorneys to social workers. Continue reading »

Learn About Your FMLA Rights and Share Your Stories

Posted by on August 12th, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Comments Off on Learn About Your FMLA Rights and Share Your Stories

FMLA guideAs part of its year-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the National Partnership for Woman and Families, which was instrumental in getting the law passed, has issued a new guide to FMLA. The guide clearly explains who is and is not covered, how to use your FMLA leave and what to do if your employer violates your FMLA rights.

FMLA is a national law that allows workers to take job-protected leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or seriously ill family member, or to recover from a serious health problem of their own. It has helped millions of workers and their families since it was implemented on August 5, 1993, but millions more—including many direct care workers—are unable to benefit from it, most of them because they work part-time, work for too small an employer, or earn too little to afford to take unpaid time off.

The new guide is part of a year-long campaign by the National Partnership and its allies, including Direct Care Alliance, to amend the law so it can help working families even more.  Continue reading »

Let’s Get Direct Care Workers Covered!

Posted by on July 29th, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Comments Off on Let’s Get Direct Care Workers Covered!
Carla D. Washington

Carla D. Washington

DCA is thrilled to announce its new initiative, Get Direct Care Workers Covered. Thanks to the generous support of the New York State Health Foundation, Get Direct Care Workers Covered will help direct care workers and other uninsured individuals throughout New York State get health insurance through the New York State Health Benefit Exchange which opens on October 1, 2013.

The launch of the Exchange and expansion of Medicaid creates a historic opportunity to increase the number of direct care workers with health insurance. Get Direct Care Workers Covered is an education and enrollment initiative that will ensure that the benefits of health care reform reach low-income and immigrant communities. Given that approximately 2.7 million New Yorkers – including over 85,000 direct care workers – are uninsured, this is a critical development in our work to improve the health and economic and security of uninsured direct care workers and individuals throughout the state.

Continue reading »

Companionship Exemption Hurts CNAs Too

Posted by on July 15th, 2013 at 3:12 pm | 4 Comments »
Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1938. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, the first woman to ever hold a seat as a presidential cabinet member, was the driving force behind a minimum wage, a 40 hour work week, and abolishing child labor. Secretary Perkins and President Roosevelt pushed for FLSA because they believed in a livable wage for a day’s work. Over the years, those labor protections have been expanded to more and more workers for the same reason every time — and the same reason President Obama gave in 2011 when he proposed to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers — “it’s the right thing to do.” Yet, home care workers continue to be excluded from these protections.

Continue reading »

New York City Workers Win Paid Sick Days

Posted by on July 2nd, 2013 at 9:24 am | Comments Off on New York City Workers Win Paid Sick Days

sickdaysNew York City workers gained significant sick day rights last week, following the New York City Council’s June 27th 47-4 vote to override Mayor Bloomberg’s previous veto of the Paid Sick Time Act. As a result, more than one million workers in New York City will have the right to earn up to five days (40 hours) of paid sick leave per year.

The passage of the Paid Sick Days Act is a huge victory for eligible New York City workers, who will now be able to take time off from work to recover from sickness or to take care of family members — without having to worry about losing their jobs or risking their financial security. Paid sick days are particularly important for direct care workers, whose typically low wages, high rates of chronic conditions and job-related injuries make it crucial for them to be able to address their own health needs without worrying about losing wages or losing their jobs — or risking the health and safety of those for whom they provide care, services and support.

Continue reading »

Get Covered America is Launching This Week

Posted by on June 17th, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Comments Off on Get Covered America is Launching This Week

GCAOn October 1, 2013, health insurance exchanges will launch across the country. These exchanges will provide people without health insurance with a one-stop shop to compare health plans, determine eligibility for insurance subsidies and Medicaid, and to get covered. This is a very exciting development for the nearly one million direct care workers that are currently without health insurance and is why DCA will be launching a campaign to educate direct care workers and businesses that employ direct care workers about the options that are available to them.

As a part of our effort to make sure that every uninsured direct care worker has the information they need to decide what’s best for them, DCA is partnering with Enroll America and many other organizations across the country. This week, Enroll America is launching Get Covered America to kick off this historic effort to get the word out and make sure that every American has affordable health care.  You can learn more about Get Covered America by participating in its virtual strategy session this Thursday, June 20 at 8 pm ET. Click here to register for the event.

Also, be sure to stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information about DCA’s campaign to get direct care workers covered.

Learn More

How the Affordable Care Act benefits direct care workers


About Get Covered America

Let’s Give Home Care Workers Reason to Celebrate FLSA

Posted by on June 17th, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Comments Off on Let’s Give Home Care Workers Reason to Celebrate FLSA

FDR SigningTuesday, June 25th marks the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This landmark law restricted child labor, gave American workers the 40-hour work week, set a minimum wage and required overtime pay when people worked over 40 hours in a week. Its immense popularity has led to repeated amendments by Congress to expand protections to workers who were previously excluded. In other words, there’s a lot for us to celebrate.

We at DCA can’t think of a better way to celebrate FLSA’s 75th anniversary than by extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. That’s why we are celebrating DCA members like Shirley Bitner of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania – who at 77, was born prior to the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Continue reading »

Advocating for Medicaid Expansion Under Health Care Reform

Posted by on May 20th, 2013 at 4:23 pm | 3 Comments »
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

Hundreds of thousands of direct care workers have no health insurance because they cannot afford pricey premiums and copays, yet they’re not eligible for coverage under Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as health care reform or Obamacare) provides important ways for these workers and other low-income individuals and families to get affordable health care coverage.

Unfortunately, resistance from state lawmakers and others opposed to key aspects of the law is limiting access to affordable health care in some states. That’s why Direct Care Alliance, our members and allies are advocating for affordable health care through the ACA—and we hope you’ll join us!  Continue reading »

Educating My Legislature About CNA Staffing Ratios

Posted by on May 14th, 2013 at 8:25 am | 3 Comments »
Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson

Read Helen’s testimony.

One of the good things about doing advocacy work is that it gets easier with time. That’s partly just because you get better at it. Every time I speak up about direct care worker issues, it gets easier to figure out what I want to say and how to say it, and it’s been years since I was nervous about talking to my legislators.

It also helps that other people who care about the same issues get to know you, so if something comes up that they know you’d want to speak up about, they’ll let you know about it.

That’s what happened to me a couple weeks ago when our State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Brenda Gallant, told me about a hearing the Maine legislature was about to hold on a nursing home staffing bill. The bill would eliminate mandated staffing ratios for each shift and staff based upon residents’ acuity levels instead. Continue reading »