Archive for ‘public policy’

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on August 15th, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would raise the minimum wage for VA hospital CNAs and other federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

A new guidance and updated fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor help states make sure home care workers are paid fairly under the minimum wage and overtime rule.

Another excellent editorial from the New York Times on why U.S. Department of Labor must resist pressure to delay implementing the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers.

Home care worker Maureen Lewis on why we must improve the lives of the next generation by improving wages for direct care workersContinue reading »

How to Improve Elder Care

Posted by on May 16th, 2014 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on How to Improve Elder Care

This Wednesday, Direct Care Alliance, Eldercare Workforce Alliance and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care hosted an Older Americans Month tweetchat on how to support older adults’ independence, safety and health. Here are highlights from the chat, including links to moving testimonials, useful resources, and tips about how you can help.

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 »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on January 28th, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

The U.S. economy does not value caregivers, writes Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic.

The text of a tweet chat about professional and family caregivers and direct care care consumers that was hosted last Wednesday by Caring Across Generations, DCA and family caregiver advocate Denise Brown.

A “good jobs” executive order could help direct care workers by setting standards for jobs paid for by government funding such as Medicare and Medicaid.

A Maryland direct care worker shares her experience and urges respect and a living wage for direct care workers.

Home health worker Theresa Johnson was among the SEIU members who visited the Indiana statehouse recently to urge their governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Report from the Field: Legislators Listen in New Mexico

Posted by on November 4th, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Comments Off on Report from the Field: Legislators Listen in New Mexico
Adrienne Smith (R) with Rep. Kelly Fajardo

Adrienne Smith (L) with State Rep. Kelly Fajardo

The New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition (NMDCC) is hosting a series of listening sessions for family and professional caregivers, care recipients, friends and family members of caregivers and advocates of people with disabilities and those who are elderly. The sessions bring these constituents together with their elected representatives to share their thoughts and experiences, and to discuss how the state could better support care recipients and their caregivers.

Two sessions were hosted in mid-October, both led by state representatives. On October 12, State Representative Kelly Fajardo (R-Belen) asked attendees in Los Lunas to share their comments concerning minimum education and training requirements for professional caregivers. On October 19, Representative Fajardo and State Senator Michael Padilla (D-Albuquerque) asked the same question of attendees in Albuquerque.  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 »

Making Our Mommas Proud

Posted by on May 14th, 2013 at 8:19 am | 2 Comments »

As a member of the Caring Across Generations Leadership Team, DCA is proud to have helped lead a series of actions organized by Caring Across Generations last week in Washington D.C. The following is a report on the events from some of the group’s leaders: Ai-jen Poo, Sarita Gupta, and Rory McCarron.

Ai-jen Poo (L), DCA's Brenda Nachtway (center) and DCA member Peg Ankney (R) with celebrity spokespeople Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker

Ai-jen Poo (L), DCA’s Brenda Nachtway (center) and DCA member Peg Ankney (R) in D.C. last week with celebrity spokespeople Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker.

We did it!

Last week, we brought more than 100 people representing 26 different states together for a congressional briefing in D.C., asking for a comprehensive approach to expanding and supporting a strong home care workforce and making community-based long-term services and supports affordable and accessible. Because long-term care is a women’s issue—women both provide and receive most of the care and services—we built our visits around the theme of Mother’s Day.

Together we shared over two hours of testimony, held more than 40 meetings with Senate offices, and got resolutions introduced into both the House and the Senate, calling for a solution to the long-term care crises our families are in. We couldn’t have done it without your support.

Take a look at the great work we did togetherContinue reading »

The State of the Direct Care Workforce – and Why It Cannot Be Ignored

Posted by on February 18th, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Comments Off on The State of the Direct Care Workforce – and Why It Cannot Be Ignored

President Obama’s State of the Union address last week laid out a broad national agenda, and, as expected, placed tremendous emphasis on strengthening America’s economy and growing the middle class. The surprise, however, is that mention of direct care jobs was sorely missing from the conversation. While this was disappointing to Direct Care Alliance and the thousands of individual and organizational allies who advocate on direct care workforce issues, there are many ways in which DCA’s direct care jobs agenda fits into the narrative set by President Obama. It is clear that now, more than ever, our advocacy is imperative.

As President Obama stated, “A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” The President also called for immigration reform to help build a more robust workforce, economy and nation. But we must look beyond the manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, technology and housing jobs that are receiving a lot of attention – we must inject direct care jobs into this discussion about creating quality jobs, attracting dedicated and skilled people (from inside and outside of the U.S.) and training them for these jobs, and strengthening our economy in the process.

Here’s why the direct care workforce cannot be ignored: Direct care work cannot be exported. It’s a workforce composed largely of women and minorities and is made up of a significant number of undocumented immigrants. It is the fastest-growing workforce in the country and will be the largest in the nation by 2020. The benefits of investing in this workforce to our communities and the economy cannot be overstated.

Continue reading »

An Imperfect Solution to a Common Conundrum

Posted by on February 4th, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Comments Off on An Imperfect Solution to a Common Conundrum

Danielle Frank

I’m a home health aide for Home Instead Senior Care in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I will have been there 14 years in March. Before that, I worked in hospitals as a psychiatric aide. All told, I’ve been a direct care worker for 25 years. It’s my calling.

My husband thought I should get a better-paying job, so I went back to college and took a business degree. I did well—I graduated at the top of the class. But computers are not for me. Health care is for me.

Sometimes, even though they have families, I am the only person there to care for my clients. They become like my family. When I take a case, I always put myself in their place and treat them the way I would want to be treated. I have a lot of beautiful letters that I get from the families of people I have cared for, and that is something you can never forget. I remember all my patients like they were here today.

I’ve been able to stay with the work that I love because I could take long periods of time off when I needed to take care of my husband and my parents. I’m grateful that my job was waiting for me when I came back. But taking all that time off without pay has been very hard on my family’s finances.  Continue reading »

Help the FMLA Help You

Posted by on February 4th, 2013 at 7:21 pm | 1 Comment »

 February 5 marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the family-friendly 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. Vicki Shabo is director of work and family programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a leader in the effort to expand the FMLA so it can be of use to more workers. Ms. Shabo recently talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about what FMLA does and doesn’t cover and the improvements she and her ally organizations—including Direct Care Alliance—are advocating for.

What does the FMLA do exactly, and who does it cover?

Vicki Shabo

The FMLA of 1993 is the nation’s only law that helps men and women manage work when family and medical needs arise. Eligible workers are entitled to 12 weeks of leave a year to deal with their own serious health condition or the serious health of a child, spouse or parent, or to care for a new baby or an adopted or foster child who has just come into the family. It also provides 26 weeks of protected leave per year for a spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to care for a covered member of the military with a serious injury or illness.

So employers have to give you time off, but they don’t have to pay you for it?

It’s unpaid leave, but it’s job-protected. You can take the leave and come back to the same job, in most cases, or to an equivalent job. Your health insurance is also continued during that time, if you have health insurance. 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 »

Anniversary Sparks Calls to Action on Home Care Rule

Posted by on December 11th, 2012 at 11:02 am | 1 Comment »


Last Saturday marked the anniversary of a magnificent promise from President Obama to the nation’s home care workers. Announcing a proposed rule to ensure basic labor protections for home care workers through the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the President pledged: “Today, we’re guaranteeing home care workers minimum wage and overtime pay protection.”

The rule was published, the public comments poured in and proved to be overwhelmingly favorable—and the wheels of justice stalled. A year later, home care workers still have no right to minimum wage or overtime pay.

But DCA and the other advocates behind the rule are still working to remind the President of his promise, and their words rang out across the nation last week.  Continue reading »

Election Season Over, the Time for Action is Now!

Posted by on November 7th, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Comments Off on Election Season Over, the Time for Action is Now!

After a long and grueling election season, Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States while Democrats retained a majority in the U.S. Senate and Republicans in the House of Representatives. Voters made it clear that they want the President and Congress to focus on creating quality jobs. As the fastest-growing sector in our economy, the direct care workforce can play an important role in this effort. President Obama and Congress have supported various initiatives to stimulate the economy through investments in critical sectors such as teaching, manufacturing, construction, and green jobs. DCA will continue to educate the Obama Administration and Congress about why now is the time for direct care jobs to receive similar attention. Continue reading »

Why Nursing Homes Need More of Us CNAs

Posted by on October 30th, 2012 at 8:56 am | 3 Comments »

Karla Lawrence

I’m a CNA at a nursing home in the Bronx, where I work the night shift. I’ve been working here for 12 years, and for eight years before that I did home care. I love being a caregiver, but I wish we had more staff so I could provide more person-centered care without having to stay late every morning.

There are 40 residents on my unit. Every night, I take care of half of them while another CNA is assigned to the other half. When the other aide is on break, I’m responsible for all 40 at once: If one of her residents needs something, I take care of it.

The residents are asleep most of the time at night, but they still need a lot. We have to brush all their teeth and give them all bed baths. We have to change their incontinence briefs at night, twice per person. A lot of them are young, and they don’t go to sleep early. And the older people sometimes need to get up a lot to go to the bathroom. Sometimes you are going back and forth answering the bell all night because someone needs a urinal, needs to go to the bathroom, needs a drink of water.  Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers Have Much at Stake in Health Care Debate

Posted by on October 30th, 2012 at 1:43 am | 1 Comment »

Jessica Brill Ortiz

The Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA, or Obamacare) has gained a great deal of attention recently, as President Barack Obama is committed to upholding the ACA and Governor Mitt Romney is committed to repealing it. As we reported earlier, the ACA will benefit hundreds of thousands of direct care workers by taking important steps to make health insurance affordable and accessible.

Over a million of our nation’s more than 4 million direct care workers are uninsured, making them nearly twice as likely as the average American to be without health insurance. Yet direct care workers need health care more than the average American, not less. They have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries, largely from lifting and transferring the people they care for. They also have higher than average rates of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes, which become more serious when untreated.

The following components of the ACA would significantly affect direct care workers.  Continue reading »

Article Spotlights Home Care Workers’ Fight for Respect

Posted by on October 8th, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Comments Off on Article Spotlights Home Care Workers’ Fight for Respect

Latasha Smith

DCA Board Chair and home care worker Tracy Dudzinski and Latasha Smith, a Houston home care worker who attended DCA’s Houston Voices Institute, are the two experts quoted in a feature story about poor wages and benefits for home care workers and how workers are fighting to improve them.

In Home Health-Care Workers Still Fighting for Higher Wages, Better Benefits, both women tell author Michael Lawson about the personal sacrifices they and their families are making due to their low salaries—and about why they love their profession. “I don’t get paid nearly enough, but it’s a job that is necessary,” says Smith.

They also talked about the National Day of Action organized by DCA in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice on September 21. Both went to Washington, D.C. with DCA that day to urge their elected representatives to support minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers. “I knew if I wanted things to change, I had to speak up. I had to be a part of the change I wanted to see,” says Dudzinski.