[Marxism] Workers Excluded from the Minimum Wage -- and it is legal!

Richard Negri Richard at unionreview.com
Tue Jul 20 06:10:18 MDT 2010

I am working on a number of campaigns, mostly in healthcare, with my union (
http://www.seiu.org). Last week I began writing about home care workers who
are excluded from minimum wage and overtime benefits (let alone any other
benefit of being a worker). Toward the bottom of the article is a small list
of ways people can take action from their computers. They are pretty simple
asks: go to a FB page with a specific message, go on Twitter with a similar
message, pass the info on, blog about it, etc. *I thought to post here to
share with you all, and welcome discussion/insights.


Why are the people caring for our older parents and grandparents excluded
from minimum wage and overtime pay?

By Richard Negri

[image: LONGTERMCARE_HomeCareCutsRally_09.jpg]<http://www.seiu.org/images/LONGTERMCARE_HomeCareCutsRally_09.jpg>
We don't usually think about home care workers until our parents or
grandparents need their services. They are the workers who are in the homes
with the patients, and who have to deal with the most intimate
responsibilities. They are caregivers who believe that everyone -- no matter
their age or illness -- deserve proper care, companionship, and, in many
cases, love.

And they deliver!

*Most people don't realize that these hard workers are excluded from federal
minimum wage and overtime protections*. No matter the intense work many have
to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet; yet they are taking care
of our parents, grandparents and people with disabilities in ways we cannot.

*A Personal Perspective*

When my mom became ill with cancer 16 years ago, we were faced with
something none of us would have imagined: shame and pride! I have two
brothers, no sisters ... it was just our mom and us.

Mom didn't want her boys to see her using the bathroom, let alone lifting
her from the toilet when she became so weak she couldn't do it on her own.
She wouldn't let us bathe her; mom was even embarrassed and ashamed for us
to see her vomit from the cocktail of meds she was on. We were ready to do
it all and more, but she was adamant; she'd cry and beg us to not do any of

We had to get some help. Someone outside of the family, a woman, someone
strong and able to lift her up, move her around, make the bed and not be too
squirmish with throw up.

We are a working family and we didn't know from accepting help - but we
learned. We also learned that regardless of our finances, no amount of money
was too much to keep mom comfortable during this time.

When we learned how much it cost to have someone come to the apartment to do
all this work we were kind of shocked. We were also shocked to learn that
most of what we were paying the agency didn't go to our mom's home care
worker. We made a decision, legal or not, to pay the worker cash every week
above and beyond what we paid the agency. Our only condition was that she
cater to our mom's every wish, and if something seemed unreasonable, not to
tell her - but tell us.

It worked.

When our mom passed on, her home care worker sent us flowers and a beautiful
card. We will probably never need her services again, but we sure are glad
she was there when we did need her.

*Let's look at the law. Here is a time line of events (or non-events) that
will put this in another light:*

   - *1938* - The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is enacted to
   ensure a minimum standard of living for workers through the provision of a
   minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections -- but domestic workers
   are excluded.

   - *1974* - The FLSA is amended to include domestic employees such as
   housekeepers, full-time nannies, chauffeurs, and cleaners. However, persons
   employed as "companions to the elderly or infirm" remain excluded from the

   - *1975* - The Department of Labor (DOL) interprets the "companionship
   exemption" as including all direct-care workers in the home, even those
   employed by third parties such as home care agencies.

   - *2001* - The Clinton DOL finds that "significant changes in the home
   care industry" have occurred and issues a "notice of proposed rulemaking"
   that would have made important changes to the exemption. The revision
   process is terminated, however, by the incoming Bush Administration.

   - *2007* - The US Supreme Court, in a case brought by New York home care
   attendant Evelyn
   upholds the DOL's authority to define exceptions to FLSA

   - *Today:* *We are calling on DOL Secretary Hilda Solis to end the
   companionship exemption*.

*What are we doing to try and make this happen--and what can you do to help?

We're running an online campaign to help these workers get the justice they
deserve. At the moment our campaign involves Facebook and Twitter. We also
need bloggers to help get the word out. Eventually, in partnership with PHI
Policy Works <http://phinational.org/policy/>, we will have a petition and a
letter-to-the-editor action, but for now, we're focusing on awareness. We
need to get this information out there so people realize that there are
workers in 2010 who are excluded from our most basic of labor laws.

*Take Action*

   - *On Facebook*, become a fan of the Department of Labor's Facebook
post this message:

   Sec. Solis, home care workers deserve minimum wage and overtime
   protection. It's time to end the companionship exemption:

   - *On Twitter*, copy, paste, and tweet this message:

   @HildaSolisDOL, it's time to end the exclusion of home care workers from
   minimum wage and overtime exemption: http://bit.ly/a5pF1e

   - *On Facebook*, become a fan of this campaign's page Home Care Workers
   Deserve Minimum Wage Protection <http://www.facebook.com/fairpay?v=wall>.
   After you become a fan <http://www.facebook.com/fairpay?v=wall>, you can
   suggest <http://www.facebook.com/fairpay?v=wall#> our page to all your

*Home care workers deserve minimum wage and overtime protection*. Together,
we can make this happen.

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