Home Health Care Workers Under Attack

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

Home health care workers have important but difficult jobs that require them to work long hours and chaotic schedules to care for the country’s rapidly growing elder population.

Instead of protecting these workers, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color, the current administration plans to make it harder for them to belong to unions, stifling their best chance for improving working conditions and wages.

The anti-union measure would roll back an Obama-era rule that allows home care workers, whose services are paid for through Medicaid, to choose to have their union dues deducted directly from their paychecks.

The goal of the rule, like the recent Janus decision and other anti-union campaigns, is to starve unions out of existence, so they can no longer protect their members.

Home health care workers bathe, dress, feed and monitor the health of the sick and elderly, but they often cannot afford to provide for their own families.

On average, they make little more than $10 an hour and more than half rely on some sort of public assistance. Most receive few or no benefits, even though home care workers and other direct care workers have some of the highest injury rates of any occupation.

That’s why many home care workers have turned to labor unions.

“We have chosen to join together in a union and contribute to that union to have a stronger voice for ourselves and the people who depend on us to help them live with dignity and independence at home,” said Melody Benjamin, an Illinois home care worker and member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

And unions do help workers. Home care workers in unions receive higher wages and better benefits, while seeing a lower turnover rate, according to a study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

The study also found that when home care workers are backed by a union, they receive more training and are able to provide higher quality care for consumers.

The United States is facing a severe shortage of home care workers, and as baby boomers continue to age, this problem will only get worse. Paying home care workers more and making their jobs safer is the only way to attract and retain caring, compassionate workers. And for that, they need labor unions.


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