New Rule Would Provide Home Health Workers with Minimum Wage
The Alliance’s friends at American Rights at Work remind us that even in 2012, millions of workers are without minimum wage protections. More shocking is that 2.5 million of these unprotected workers are those who provide critical care to seniors and the disabled in their homes. “Without minimum wage and overtime protections, the home care workforce suffers from low-wages, high turnover, stress and exhaustion,” the organization’s blog states (http://bit.ly/z7XXVJ). Despite the industry's rapid growth, fueled in part by the rising number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, many workers also lack health insurance, allowances for travel time or paid time off.
In order to improve both these jobs and the quality of care provided, the Obama Administration has proposed a rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, long considered exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The rule would overturn an exception first granted in 1974 that was aimed at allowing friends and family members to care for elderly relatives.
In addition to being exempt from FLSA protections, the majority of home care workers are without the legally-protected right to form unions. This is due to either having no identifiable employer or else being misclassified by their employers as independent contractors. Without the right to unionize, many of the workers are left at the mercy of whatever employment laws may be on the books. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia provide some minimum wage and overtime coverage for these workers, but many are left unprotected. The proposed rule is essential to improving the lives of millions of home care workers as well as their patients. “The Obama Administration rule would lead to a more skilled workforce, ensuring a higher quality of care for seniors and the disabled,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
Home health care companies are leading the fight against the Obama administration’s proposal, despite data showing that the industry was one of the few nationally to maintain profits during the worst of the recession. USA Today reports that one of the industry's leading companies, Home Instead Senior Care, spent at least $362,000 in 2011 fighting the proposal.
GOP Senators Want Seniors to Move to Private Insurance Faster
Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-NC) last week unveiled a plan that will accelerate the transition for many seniors to private insurance plans. The proposed legislation will also increase the age of Medicare eligibility for seniors to 67 years old, and increase premiums for retirees in the upper- and middle-class. The transition to the private insurance plans would take place by 2016 instead of waiting a decade, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had proposed.
“This plan is too vague for seniors to hold any confidence in it," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Relying on competition isn’t a guarantee that premiums will remain low enough for seniors to receive the adequate care that they need.” For more on problems with the Coburn-Burr plan, go to http://huff.to/wWlHH6.
Florida Alliance Leads “Mack Attack” to Hold Rep. Connie Mack’s Feet to the Fire
Members of the Florida Alliance, along with their coalition partners, hosted a sign-waving and information-sharing event in front of Rep. Connie Mack’s (R) 14th Congressional District Cape Coral office this morning. Earlier, group representatives had met with Rep. Mack’s Congressional staff. Mack is running to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D) statewide. “Since 2009, the poverty rate in all three counties encompassed in the 14th CD has risen by 2% on average, yet Rep. Mack continues to vote against safety net programs that could benefit district working class and poor citizens,” said Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta. The theme of the event was, Rep. Mack has not stood in our corner—it’s time we stood on his corner!
Arizona Alliance Gets out its Message at the GOP Debate
Arizona Alliance retirees joined with hundreds of protestors outside the GOP debate in Mesa on Wednesday. The retirees were there to send a clear message to all four presidential hopefuls: Arizona seniors do not support privatizing Medicare, raising the retirement age, or other damaging changes to Social Security.
Myth Busters on the Alliance Web Site – and in-Person in Illinois
A Social Security myth-busters fact sheet is now available at http://bit.ly/xaTH9c. The two-pager explains what to say when people make claims such as, “Social Security is going broke!” Another myth-busting fact sheet, Myths and Facts about the Affordable Care Act, had been posted previously at http://bit.ly/x1U472. The continuing Alliance effort to stop lies from being spread about seniors’ programs also includes educational forums. In Peoria, Illinois on Wednesday, the Illinois Alliance hosted a workshop to debunk myths and provide useful information about current legislation affecting federal and state retirement security programs.
Affordable Senior Health Insurance Available to Supplement Medicare
Affordable insurance supplemental to Medicare is available through the Retiree Health Plan endorsed by the Alliance for union retirees. The Open Enrollment period is currently in effect through April 30, 2012! During this period, these Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses are guaranteed acceptance with no waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions. If you have questions or would like to enroll in the program, please call 1-866-298-9117. You can also visit www.araretireehealth.com to get more information.
Regional Meetings Start Next Week in Las Vegas
The Alliance’s 2012 Regional Meetings begin on the following dates: February 29 in Las Vegas; March 5 in Milwaukee; April 30 in Orlando; and May 14 in Philadelphia. Workshops will include: 2012 Elections: Do Not Be Out-Foxed; 2012 Elections: Facts are Stubborn Things!; and Online Organizing: Best Practices. For more information, or to register on-line, please click on http://bit.ly/yiqB8n. Questions? Call Event Coordinator Joni Jones at 202/637-5377, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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