One Sunday afternoon when I was 15 years old, I went to visit my father who was working as a caregiver. He was a live-in caregiver with 5 elderly patients, one of them non-ambulatory. He worked 6 days a week, and because he lived in the facility, I can only imagine, he worked 24 hours a day.
He’d been in the US for over a year and this is the only work he could find, and he was happy to take it. He knew that the paycheck would help my mother put food on the table and help with our household expenses. I was just happy he was in the US with us finally, after 6 years of separation. My weekly trip to his work site was a source of joy for me.
On those Sundays, I’d take him to the bank to deposit his check, get deodorant, etc. And this Sunday, my heart sank a little as my father wobbled his way out of the care home doors. He said his back hurt because he lifted a patient the wrong way. “Its okay, Val. Kaya ko to,” he said. When we got to the bank, he opened up his paycheck envelope, and his eyes got a little watery. He asked me to deposit the check for him because his back was hurting. And as I fought to keep my tears back, I said, “Sure, Papa.”
When I got to the teller, I could tell my father wasn’t tearing up about his back. His paycheck for 2 weeks of work was only $500. That day, I wished all my wishes away.
I wished that my father’s back would heal.
I wished that he could get a fair wage.
I wished that he could have better work conditions.
I wished that people, especially his employer, could see his work as dignified and valuable.
If you know a caregiver, your parent was a caregiver, if you grew up in a care home, you’ll want to do this.
Caregivers and domestic workers are one of few American workforces who do not receive standardized labor rights.
The US Department of Labor is taking comments about proposed regulations to standardize their rights.
Follow the steps below and tell the DOL that you support home care workers.
Comments on Department of Labor ‘s Proposed Regulations for MW and OT for Home Care Workers
All comments need to be submitted on-line by February 27, 2012.
HOW DO I SUBMIT IT?
1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ .
2. On the “SEARCH” LINE, please type or paste: Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service
3. You will be taken to a site that has different Titles of Documents. Look for the Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service. Click on Submit a Comment (which is on the RIGHT HAND side) and
4. Enter your contact information and Type in a comment of up to 2,000 characters OR attach a word or PDF file. You only have 20 minutes, so if you plan to have it typed up beforehand so you can paste it in.
5. Your document should refer to Dept of Labor and RIN 1235-AA05,
NOTE: All comments will be posted unedited, so don’t disclose any information that you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly. Include as much relevant personal information as you are comfortable sharing. The more specific you are about why you care about this issue and what the new rule would mean to you, the better.
WHAT KIND OF COMMENT SHOULD I SUBMIT?
FROM CAREGIVERS: We want to tell the Department of Labor (DOL) to know about caregivers’ experiences of underpay and overwork. Ask caregivers to describe, as specifically as possible, what it feels like to be underpaid and overworked (i.e. they can talk about how difficult it is to live and support their families in SF because their pay is so low; they can talk about how overwork affects their health, they can talk about what they actually do at work that shows that they are more than just “companions” etc). LIMIT THE COMMENT TO 2000 WORDS, OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE TO ATTACH YOUR COMMENTS SEPARATELY.
Here are sample questions to ask workers:
Are you a caregiver, child of caregiver, or an employer? For how many years? Is being a caregiver your only job? Do you have family you are supporting? Are you a part of a caregivers organization?
ANO ANG TRABAHO MO?
What state do you work in? How many hours do you work? How much are you paid? Do you have to get up when you sleep? What do you do for the people you care for (Shower? Dress? Cook?…)
ASK FOR DOL’S SUPPORT.
Bakit sinasuportahan mo ang mga karapatan para Overtime pay & Minimum Wage for Home Care workers? (Halimbawa – it will recognize our important work, it will help us stay at our jobs longer, do our jobs better, care for our families.)
Here is a sample template for answers/comments to post:
· As a caregiver, I strongly support the DOL’s proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) that ensure all home care aides receive minimum wage and overtime protections.
· I have worked in the caregiver field for ___ years.
· Every day, I help my clients with [list what you do for your clients – include any things that you do like turning the patient, changing wound dressing, giving medications, dressing, bathing, feeding , grooming, toileting, laundry, housekeepring, etc].
· I often work ___ hours each work and do not get paid any overtime. Even though I am supposed to get minimum wage in California, I have often work at wages below minimum wage
· [If not getting minimum wage and./or overtime ]- I think it’s unfair that I don’t have the same rights as other workers.
· My work helps my clients stay healthy and independent. I take great pride in my work, which takes skill and compassion. I care deeply about my clients, but I also need to earn a fair wage to support my own family.
REMEMER: only include details the worker is comfortable having posted on a public website)
FROM YOU: As advocates, we want the DOL to know that we support revisions of the regulations.
Here is a sample of what you can submit for yourself:
· I am a concerned individual and I support the proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) to ensure minimum wage and overtime protection for homecare workers whose work is so important. It will help to stabilize this critical workforce that is experiencing high turnover because of low pay and long hours. It will help ensure dignified care for the elderly and people with disabilities so they can stay in their homes and out of institutions.
· I also support requiring employers of live-in domestic workers to make and keep records of domestic workers’ hours worked because live-in workers need this basic protection around their work hours. In addition, employers should ALSO be required to keep other records — like the rate of pay, total wages, or deductions for meals and housing. Deductions from pay are common, and without this additional information, the possible wage and hour violations are impossible to spot. It will not be burdensome for employers to keep such records—because they have home computers, smartphones, and workers can keep such information, which employers can use to keep their records.
· Personally, this issue matters to me because [HERE YOU CAN PERSONALIZE IT]