Posted by Carla Washington on April 21st, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Comments Off on Greater Houston DCA Members Take Time to Recharge
“You touch with your heart long before you touch with your hand,” said one of the almost 200 participants attending the Care for Elders 17th Annual Direct Care Workers Conference in Houston, Texas, earlier this month.
Direct care workers came together to recharge, reconnect and remember why the care and services they provide to the elderly and people with disabilities is vital work, provided not only in Houston but by more than 300,000 direct care workers across the state. Members of Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance (GHDCA) start planning early to ensure they’re available to attend the annual conference, because GHDCA’s members recognize the importance of taking care of themselves so they can provide quality care, services and support to their consumers. Continue reading »
After reading about a jobless home care worker in Pennsylvania whose unemployment benefits were ending, the wife of a Virginia man with end-stage dementia who relies on home care paid the worker’s mortgage for a month.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on February 10th, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Comments Off on Advocates Launch Medicaid Expansion Campaign in Texas
As part of our Get Direct Care Workers Covered initiative, DCA is working with direct care workers and ally organizations/coalitions in key states to advocate for Medicaid expansion, so more direct care workers and their families have access to affordable, quality health care. One of these states is Texas.
Over six million Texans are uninsured, giving the state the highest rate of uninsured people in the U.S., but state lawmakers decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision means Texas has lost billions of federal dollars that could have expanded health coverage. And that leaves more than one million Texans, including many direct care workers and their families, in a health care coverage gap, ineligible for Medicaid and also for financial assistance with policies bought through the new health insurance exchange. Continue reading »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on February 10th, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Comments Off on Join Us in Austin on March 5 for a Medicaid Rally
On March 5, people from over 150 local, state and national organizations–including Direct Care Alliance (DCA)–will gather in Austin for a Texas Medicaid Matters advocacy day. Medicaid is the program that provides low-income individuals and families with crucial access to affordable health care. Together, we will call on legislators and policymakers to expand Medicaid so more direct care workers and other Texans have the health care they need.
DCA and Texas Well and Healthy, the grassroots campaign that is helping to organize the advocacy event, are covering the main participation costs for a limited number of attendees. We hope you will join us.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” His words were never truer than in the case of home care workers like us, who provide hands-on care, services and support to millions of Americans.
For one thing, there’s a clear link between the quality of our jobs and the quality of care we can provide. We see a lot of people come and go in our profession, and we know how hard that is on their clients, who have to keep getting used to new caregivers. But we also know how hard it can be to commit to this profession, even when you love it, if the pay is so poor it’s hard to provide for your own family. Continue reading »
Posted by Tracy Dudzinski on January 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am | Comments Off on Growing the Movement in 2013
As I look back on all that DCA has accomplished in 2012, I can’t wait to see what we’ll get done in 2013. I truly believe that the growing wave of aging baby boomers is about to meet up with the growing pressure from DCA and our many wonderful allies to create a perfect storm of awareness, a storm that will finally push our issue—the need for better care quality for elders and people with disabilities and better job quality for the direct care workers they depend on—onto the national agenda.
2012 was a busy year. Our movement lost a great champion when Leonila passed away in November, but we will celebrate her legacy by remaining committed to training and supporting direct care worker leaders and growing our movement to make their voices heard and direct care a respected profession. Continue reading »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on December 4th, 2012 at 2:17 am | Comments Off on NPR Reports on Why We Need Immigrant Direct Care Workers
“I’m a social worker, a psychologist,” said home care worker and Voices Institute graduate Elizabeth Castillo in an NPR report last week. “I wear so many hats on this job. I wish we were valued because we provide much more than companionship.”
Elizabeth was interviewed for a story about the importance of immigrants to the direct care workforce, which aired on NPR’s All Things Considered on November 30. Listen to or read the report.
Posted by Direct Care Alliance on October 8th, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Comments Off on Article Spotlights Home Care Workers’ Fight for Respect
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.
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.
Houston Voices Institute attendees with DCA's Jessica Brill Ortiz (far L) and Brenda Nachtway (far R)
Direct care workers from the Houston area strengthened their leadership and advocacy skills on September 27 and 28 at the Houston Voices Institute Leadership Training Program. A state-level version of the DCA’s Voices institute, the training covered personal and professional development with an emphasis on advocating for improvements to direct care jobs.
The direct care workers who participated were chosen for their leadership skills and commitment to their work. Among the speakers they heard from was Texas Representative Garnet Coleman, who urged them to make their concerns about their profession known to their elected representatives. “His intervention was eye-opening to all the possibilities out there, if only we can use our voices,” said CNA Alfonsina Bush of the Representative’s presentation.
Determined to win home care workers the respect and basic labor protections they deserve, direct care workers and their allies converged on Capitol Hill last Friday for a National Day of Action. The advocates visited their members of Congress to deliver an urgent message: We must guarantee home care workers the right to minimum wage and overtime pay. Meanwhile, hundreds of advocates across the nation delivered the same message in their home states, visiting members of Congress in their home offices, calling them on the phone, or signing petitions in support of the cause.
The event was sponsored by the Direct Care Alliance (DCA), in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Many other national and local organizations also participated, spreading the word to their constituents.
On Capitol Hill
The more than 50 people who met in Washington, D.C. started the day with a morning orientation session led by DCA’s National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz. Continue reading »
In her opening remarks last Friday morning in Washington, D.C., DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz urged the advocates heading to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action to speak from personal experience when they talked to legislators and their staff about why home care workers need Fair Labor Standards Act protections. “Your stories are very powerful,” she said, “and you can tell them best.”
Their stories aren’t the only tool in these advocates’ belts, but they are certainly one of the most powerful, as seen in the following excerpts from conversations held after their Hill visits with DCA Communications Advisor Elise Nakhnikian.
Timothy Doe (L) waiting to board a train to DC.
“At Senator Kyl’s office, the staff member we talked to knew about the bill. He said his aunt is a caregiver, so he knows how hard we work. He also asked us what we do as caregivers. We described it from the top to the bottom, and he was very impressed.”
— Home care worker and DCA member Timothy Doe, Tucson, Arizona
“I told him the demand is great and the jobs are growing, but we can’t attract new people because we can tell them the job is great but the money is not good.”
The story explains why DCA and other advocates for rule are concerned that the rule may not go into effect at all if it is not enacted soon. Home care worker Castillo of El Paso, Texas, who does not qualify for overtime and makes barely more than minimum wage, talks about the long hours she logs and her need to rely on food stamps to supplement her income in weeks when she can’t get more than 40 hours of work. “I don’t know how I do it, but I do,“ she says.
Doe, a founding member of the Arizona Direct Care Worker Association’s Leadership Circle who lives in Tucson, must also work long hours without overtime pay to make ends meet and support his three children. “Emotionally, it’s so hard. But I don’t have a choice,” he says. Continue reading »
Posted by Elizabeth Castillo on April 17th, 2012 at 9:39 am | Comments Off on Finding My Home in the U.S. through Home Care
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and then I lived for a while in Ciudad Juarez. I moved to El Paso in 1991. I’m an American citizen now, and I like being here better, but I love Mexico too. On every corner is a little store where we can buy tortillas and whatever else we need, and outside there are people everywhere, and everybody knows everybody. Here nobody is outside on the street.
Maybe that’s why I love my job. I love people, helping them and talking to them, and that’s what I do all day now as a home care worker.
Before I started doing this, I thought it would just be changing diapers. I had helped my sister take care of my mom and dad, and I loved them because they were my mom and dad. Then a friend asked if I wanted to come work with her taking care of other old people, and I said no way. Continue reading »
Posted by Brenda Nachtway on April 3rd, 2012 at 10:31 am | Comments Off on Houston Partnership Honors, Educates Direct Care Workers
Attendees of the Hearts at Work conference
Last week, I got to visit with a group of direct care workers in Houston, Texas, when I was invited to present at the 15th annual Hearts at Work conference. I also learned about the workforce development initiatives that go on in Houston during the rest of the year.
The purpose of the conference is to thank direct care workers for their work and dedication to the field and to enhance their skills. More than 160 direct care workers were there, all from Houston and the surrounding areas. I spoke to CNAs from long-term care facilities, home health aides, and hospice aides. Thanks to the support of the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, the conference is free to attendees.
I attended several wonderful sessions before my own presentation, which was on leadership training and how direct care workers can advocate for themselves. Continue reading »
Home care worker Evelyn Coke fought for the right to overtime pay.
The home care worker whose story you are about to read chose to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.
I receive $7.75 per hour. We home care workers don’t get paid overtime in Texas, so I usually work 50 or 60 hours a week. Sometimes it’s less, but sometimes it’s more. Usually I have to work every day of the week.
I work for two agencies now, one for 20 hours a week and the other for 20 or more, sometimes more than 40. But even when I worked for just one company, I didn’t get time and a half for all that overtime. I don’t get any benefits either.
I got into this work after I started taking care of my mom and my dad in 1987. My friend said, “Do you want to care for old people?” I said “No way! I don’t want to do that kind of job. I just want to take care of my mom and my dad.” Then I didn’t find another job. I told my friend I’d try it, but as soon as I found another job I’ll quit. But I never tried to find another job, because once I started doing this work I found out that I love it. Continue reading »