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New York Care Workers’ Fight To End The 24-Hour Workday

Gui Hua Song retired from home care work in 2020, but when she heard about plans for a New York City hunger strike earlier this spring organized by a coalition fighting to end home health aides’ 24-hour workday, she signed up to join. “People asked me, ‘Why would you risk your health when it doesn’t even affect you? You are already retired,’” Song said with the help of an interpreter. But after spending years working grueling 24-hour shifts, she said she knew she had to participate. She recalled the high stress work environment and endless nights of sleeplessness while caring for an elderly couple.

Insurance Companies Are Destroying New York’s Home Care Industry

On Saturday, April 1, New York state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul failed to agree on a state budget. The governor proposed an extension until April 10, which was quickly passed by lawmakers to avoid a government shutdown — and then passed another extension, which expires Monday. These delays are reportedly because of disagreements over Hochul’s bail reform and controversial plans to create new housing. But another group is also watching the budget closely: home care workers, users and advocates, who pushed for and won a minimum wage increase for home care workers in the state budget in 2022, only to see those measures rolled back this year.

Disabled Minnesotans Are Facing A Home Care Crisis

Minnesota - Gail Larson lives in Bloomington, Minnesota, with her fiancé, whom she has been partners with for 20 years. For years, they did not marry due to a federal law that prohibits most married people from working as Medicaid-funded personal care assistants (PCAs) for their spouses.* Her fiancé, Ronald, is a veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury and has other physical and mental health needs. She describes how caring for a family member is unique because family members never truly clock out, no matter how many hours the state approves them for. “As a PCA, if the client is the person that you live with, it’s all day, no matter how many hours we are given.” The blurred line between spouse and PCA means she works many hours that she is not compensated for, Larson says.

Home Care Workers Protest 24-Hour Work Day In New York City

Workers employed with the United Jewish Council (UJC) home care agency rallied to end the 24-hour work day and demand their stolen wages on the morning of December 16. While home care workers in New York are being forced to work 24-hour shifts for poverty wages, 11 hours worth of that pay is stolen by their employers. A coalition of worker’s rights organizations including the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS) have been organizing alongside home care workers for years against these unjust labor practices. “I am traumatized from working 24-hour shifts,” said Epifania Hichez, who has worked at the UJC for 11 years. “Working 24 hours destroys your life. You lose everything, especially your health. You lose your family also.”
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