Archive for ‘Women and work’

Why Direct Care Worker Wages Are Key to Closing the Gender Wage Gap

Posted by on March 13th, 2014 at 8:14 am | Comments Off on Why Direct Care Worker Wages Are Key to Closing the Gender Wage Gap
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

In an editorial published in today’s Huffington Post, DCA National Advocacy Director Jessica Brill Ortiz recommends using Women’s History Month as an opportunity to do more than just reflect on our history. “This March, let’s take it a step further by working to become a society where women’s equality is truly universal and secure, no matter who you are, where you’re born or what you do for a living,” she writes. “Let’s commit to finally closing the gender wage gap that leaves women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.”

Closing the gender wage gap, she points out, means more than just making sure women get paid the same as men to do the same work. “We must also improve wages for the millions of women who are paid less than men because they do work that has traditionally been done by women—and paid at a much lower rate than work traditionally done by men. Millions of these women are direct care workers.”

Read Jessica’s article.

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.

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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.

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Voices Institute Coming to Wisconsin

Posted by on July 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am | Comments Off on Voices Institute Coming to Wisconsin
March 5, 2013 Tx medicaid day: DCA at the capitol

Voices Institute Graduates at a Medicaid rally in Texas

DCA and the Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance are co-hosting the Leonila Vega Voices Institute on September 18-19, 2013 in Lake Delton, WI. The two-day training helps direct care workers develop their leadership, advocacy, and organizational development skills, so they can lead the movement to improve direct care jobs. As a part of this training, participants will go to the State Capitol to advocate for policies that will benefit direct care workers and the people they serve.

The Leonila Vega Voices Institute provides leadership and empowerment training that prepares participants to educate policymakers about the issues that are important to them, build local and statewide worker associations, and develop fundraising and public speaking skills. Click here for an application to the Wisconsin Voices Institute and learn more about the Leonila Vega Voices Institute.

My Elder’s Changing Life

Posted by on June 4th, 2013 at 7:20 am | 6 Comments »

empty_roomThere are times when I drive somewhere, go into a neighborhood and am very envious of the cozy atmosphere that I will work in. That’s what happened when I started working with a gracious lady in Brunswick, Maine. If I were to move anywhere, it would be Brunswick. The Main Street says it all.

But the more important connection happened as I got to know my client. lt is joyous when I find an elder who shares my beliefs, values and hobbies, and gratifying when someone has new things to teach me. I learned about my elder’s religious beliefs and her life story while bonding with her little dog, a sheltie. Continue reading »

The National Voices Institute Experience – Part III

Posted by on May 16th, 2011 at 4:24 pm | 2 Comments »


Joan Leah

My colleagues and I just completed the 2011 Voices Institute Leadership Training Program! It was a very intense, yet rewarding learning experience and I am honored to have graduated with some of the finest people I have ever met. The investment that has been made by the DCA in this 2011 class is significant and it is now our responsibility to take the next steps to ensure our collective voices are being heard across the country.  I have been armed with the tools necessary to advocate for the desperately needed changes to our long term care system, and I am fully focused on stepping up to the challenge of helping to create a more stable direct care workforce throughout Florida. Continue reading »

Evelyn Coke, Pioneer in the Fight for FLSA Protection for Home Care Aides, Dies at 74

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 1:38 pm | 4 Comments »
Evelyn Coke

Evelyn Coke

“Year in and year out, Evelyn Coke left her Queens house early to go to the homes of elderly, sick, often dying people. She bathed them, cooked for them, helped them dress and monitored their medications. She sometimes worked three consecutive 24-hour shifts,” starts an article in yesterday’s New York Times.

“She loved the work, but she earned only around $7 an hour and got no overtime pay,” the article continues. “For years Ms. Coke, a single mother of five, quietly grumbled, and then, quite uncharacteristically, rebelled. In a case that reached the Supreme Court in 2007, Ms. Coke sued to reverse federal labor regulations that exempt home care agencies from having to pay overtime.”

Ms. Coke was 74.

The obituary made note of the letters sent by senators and members of the house asking U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to eliminate the exemption.

The Senate letter mentioned Coke by name, noting: “Evelyn Coke, who took a case all the way to the Supreme Court, spent two decades working more than 40 hours a week caring for others,” the senators wrote. “Yet, when she suffered from kidney failure, she could not afford a health care worker to take care of her.”

“Evelyn Coke’s courage was the inspiration for the DCA’s campaign to fix the FLSA exemption,” says DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega. “Her passing renews our commitment to addressing this gross injustice, whereby millions of hard working Americans are left out of basic minimum labor protections. There is no better way to honor Evelyn Coke than for policymakers to improve the lives of home care workers by amending the companionship definition.”

Join an Online Conversation About Women and Caregiving

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Comments Off on Join an Online Conversation About Women and Caregiving

Feminism2.0 logoReaders of the DCA’s blog and newsletter are invited to share their thoughts and experiences about women and caregiving on the Feminism2.0 website, which is hosting an extended online discussion of the topic this month. A Twitter conversation on the same topic is also open to anyone who has or wants to start a Twitter account.

“We are looking for insights, comments, and expertise,” said a Feminism2.0 organizer in an email to the DCA. “We are looking for personal stories to illustrate the human experience of caregiving and to build a sense of solidarity among all caregivers.”

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Caring for Our Mothers and Fathers: A Compassionate Journalist’s Inside Account

Posted by on June 17th, 2009 at 10:51 am | Comments Off on Caring for Our Mothers and Fathers: A Compassionate Journalist’s Inside Account
Paula Span

Paula Span

In When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions, Paula Span uses her personal experience to gain insight into the struggles and rewards of family caregivers.

A journalist who spent half her career at the Washington Post and is now an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, Paula used a similar structure to explore paid caregiving in “Marilyn Daniel’s Reward.” In that article, which was a cover story for the Washington Post Magazine, she used  the story of one compassionate home health aide as her focus for a look at the profession as a whole. I got to know and respect her when she contacted me during her research for that article. You never know how things will turn out when a journalist calls for a quote, but Paula got the story just right.

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Legal Expert Calls for Minimum Labor Protections for Home Care Workers

Posted by on June 8th, 2009 at 6:57 pm | 4 Comments »
Peggie Smith

Peggie Smith

“Federal reform is urgently needed to provide home care workers with the compensation and respect they deserve,” says Peggie Smith.

Smith, who is the Murray Family Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law and a graduate of Harvard Law, is talking about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that excluded home care workers from protection under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court said the workers were providing companionship services.

In Protecting Home Care Workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, (PDF) the second in a series of Direct Care Alliance policy briefs, Smith says the decision “threatens to destabilize the home care industry, erode the precarious economic status of home care workers, and undermine the quality of care that they provide to home care clients.”

She outlines two approaches the federal government could take to reverse the ruling:
1. Amend the FLSA to explicitly include home care workers; and
2. Revise Department of Labor (DOL) regulations to significantly limit the reach of the companionship exemption.

Smith recommends that the government do both, with the DOL taking immediate action to revise the companionship exemption while Congress works to reverse the impact of the Supreme Court decision by passing the Fair Home Health Care Act. Continue reading »

Economists, Researchers help DCA Make the Case for Including DCWs in the Economic Recovery Plan

Posted by on February 10th, 2009 at 12:50 pm | 8 Comments »
Leonila Vega

Leonila Vega

A room full of economists and researchers.

That’s what you wish you for when you’re an advocate for low-income women who are in dire need of supports: A room full of economists who can help you explain to President Obama, his cabinet, and our national and state legislators why they need to stop ignoring direct care workers. Maybe “ignore” is too strong a word, but it’s frustrating to see no mention of direct care workers in the plans being made to stimulate the economy or fund Medicaid, when direct care workers who are being paid a family-sustaining wage are just what our economy needs.

Every night, I read and watch news about powerful banks getting billions of dollars to bail them out, car company execs landing in DC in their private jets to collect billions, and nearly another trillion from the treasury being allocated for other projects. I wonder, what about the direct care workers who toil daily to prepare meals, give showers, perform transfers, drive people to the doctor and church, and otherwise keep families together in their communities? 

What about the direct care workers – most of them women  — who have to decide whether to pay the telephone bill, the rent or the doctor’s bill to make sure their families can make it one more month without losing basics such as housing? Never mind health care, which so many can’t afford.

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Women Coming Together

Posted by on January 7th, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Comments Off on Women Coming Together

After being so fortunate to attend a first-rate conference on women and work at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and writing a blog about it last month, I have heard from a number of conference attendees who read it. I truly appreciated hearing from you- thanks! Your positive feedback made me feel valued for what I do in a domain that was unfamiliar to me at first. In my first blog, I laid out my uncertainty about how snugly direct care worker issues would fit with women and work issues. But, they did!

Almost all of the estimated 100 attendees were women. We were all there to discuss and learn about women and work issues. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it was amazing to me that direct care worker issues would be such an integral part of the discourse! Why did direct care workers fit in so well? Well, most are women. Not only that, but most are women who face substandard circumstances due to a lack of resources. The underlying causes for the unmet needs of direct care workers are complex. What I do know is that the low wages and too-expensive benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. This became so clear to me at this conference.

To share some of what I have discovered since the conference, I will highlight two presenters:

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DCA Asks President-elect Obama to include DCWs in Stimulus Package

Posted by on December 15th, 2008 at 2:32 pm | 5 Comments »

The Direct Care Alliance has sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama (PDF), asking him to include direct care jobs in the economic stimulus package he plans to institute soon after taking office.

 “While we support investment in basic infrastructure and ‘green jobs,’ we also emphasize the strong need to generate ‘pink jobs’ that create or improve opportunities for women,” the letter says. “Many of these jobs are in the care sector of our economy, and a number of economists have emphasized the long-run benefits of public investment in that sector.”

Women Fighting for Women

Posted by on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Comments Off on Women Fighting for Women

I attended a fabulous conference on women and work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Initially, I was thrilled to attend because I am curious about women-related issues. I’ve raised my 10-year old daughter single-handedly while putting myself through college as a direct care worker. I have a sense of pride that as a woman that I have been able to accomplish this without losing my enthusiasm for what I do every day. It fascinates me to learn about how other women handle their multiple responsibilities of work, family, and community. Where I live, many women stay home with their children, sometimes even after their youngest is in school full-time. I have wondered about what motivates women to make decisions about work and career.

I wasn’t sure about how the topic related to me as a direct care worker advocate, however. In my mind, the only connection I was making to direct care worker (DCW) issues was: most direct care workers are women. But attending Women & Work: Choices & Constraints made me think about other issues.

For instance, not only are most DCWs women, but they are underpaid, under-recognized, and not invested in as professionals. Most do not earn a livable income or have health insurance. They have almost no representation — only a few passionate advocates compared to their vast numbers. Most have no job security. If they experience a personal or family emergency, such as an accident or illness, many can’t afford to miss work. If they did, they could face a complete breakdown of their already fragile situation.

Obviously, the struggles of DCWs are huge. Let me be direct. Many social factors come into play that create this perfect storm scenario: discrimination against women, discrimination against low-wage workers, discrimination against people with disabilities and people who are aging. These are some of the broader social issues that exist.

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