Historical discrimination, demographics, and public funding have left home care workers at the very bottom of the American work hierarchy
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By Claire Zillman
On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation making the state the second in the nation to institute statewide paid sick leave.
At the signing ceremony, Brown said that the legislation—expected to bring paid sick leave to most of the 6.5 million Californians currently without it—“helps people—whether it’s a person working at a car wash or McDonald’s or 7-Eleven.”
Well there’s one group of people it doesn’t help: home health care workers.
Because of cost concerns, Brown negotiated a last-minute amendment that exempts home health care workers from the law.
The carve-out of these workers is not surprising, says Abby Marquand, director of policy research at the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Why? Workers who care for the elderly and disabled in their homes are “an easy target for holding down costs,” she says. “Collectively, as a society, we haven’t valued the work they do in the way we should.”
That’s a problem in and of itself, and it has been amplified by the fact that the home care industry is the fastest-growing sector of the American economy.