A New Understanding of Direct Care Economy and CAG
Despite the fact that there are about eight hundred thousand to two million domestic workers caring for many of the nation’s elderly, disabled, and chronically ill populations, the current state of the direct care industry does not properly address the needs of its domestic workforce. According to Ai-Jen Poo’s “Making the Care Economy a Caring Economy”, she asserts that the majority of the time, domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly female-identified, low-income, and are disproportionately immigrant or of Color, earn less than the minimum wage from their dominantly female-identified employers, rendering domestic workers unable to properly support themselves or their dependents.
Now, Poo indicates that the current rhetoric in the mainstream public sphere creates an “us vs. them” dichotomy that does not help either party (neither the employer and nor the domestic worker).It does not behoove them to see the other as an enemy for direct care is a unifying interaction that becomes divisive when all parties needs are not addressed. To that end, she argues both parties would benefit from a “caring” care economy, where workers would receive necessary benefits like paid sick-leave, paid family leave, flexible hours, and fair wages and, in exchange, workers would provide high-quality care-giving and respect the people for whom they offer care. She emphasizes the mutualistic gaze with which our culture and, by extension, our policymakers must use to truly create a just and caring direct care economy. Through positioning domestic workers and their employers as being on the same side, the rhetoric validates the material realities of all domestic workers and the needs of the employers who need the domestic workers in order to live viable and fulfilling lives.
Poo’s ideas are consistent with the position that Caring Across Generations (CAG) maintains. CAG’s Policy Pillars include “Support for Consumers and Families”, which emphasizes the need for quality care that is respectful and comprehensive to the needs of the people receiving care, and “Job Quality”, which focuses on paying the workers fairly and creating safe workspaces while not financially burdening the people receiving care. CAG seeks to change the culture and policies surrounding the direct-care industry in order to mutually benefit all parties involved.
To learn more about Caring Across Generations’ work on the relationship between senior rights, disability rights, and direct care worker rights, please visit their About Us page.
From left: Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam, Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of Measure of America, Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, and Major General George Buskirk Jr. (Ret.) Photo: Laura Rusu / Oxfam
Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, began the discussion by highlighting the current and disturbing trend of growing poverty in America. This poverty, he believes, is about power and not scarcity. Oxfam America believes in order to eradicate poverty in America, it is crucial to minimize the wealth gap. Even though, according to a recent Oxfam poll, 84 percent of Americans believe that the federal government should prioritize the needs of the working poor, there is a lack of conversation about wealth inequality in politics.
Currently, America’s poverty rate is at its highest in two generations and no significant changes have been made to change this in the last 40 years, stated Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of Measure of America. 60 percent of Americans believe that the federal government has done more to increase the incomes of the wealthy rather than the working poor in recent years according to the recent Oxfam poll. The bottom 90% control just 23% of the nation’s wealth and from 1979 to 2007, the top 1% benefited from a 275% income increase after federal taxes. While other countries such as Brazil and Argentina are reducing their wealth gap, the United States ranks 10th out of 12 developed countries for the prospect of upward social mobility said Offenheiser.
On Thursday July 11th, the House of Representatives passed the first Farm bill in history with no money allocated for food stamps, which historically counted for about 80% of funding in the bill. The passing of this bill provides a concrete example of increasing apathy over growing poverty that is currently plaguing government. While House Democrats voted against the Farm Bill, Offenheiser feels that both parties do not make fixing the poverty crisis enough of a priority.
The lack of conversation and action to combat domestic poverty stems from a sense of hyper-individualism that Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, believes has grown drastically in recent years. The sense of solidarity that America had in the 1960’s and 1970’s is no longer prevalent in our society, she states, and therefore, aiding the nation’s poor is no longer a pressing issue for current politicians. However, Campbell feels strongly that the public have the ability to reverse this trend. As Americans took to the streets to advocate for same-sex marriage, the government responded with new marriage equality legislation and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Likewise, if Americas get involved in combatting wage inequality, the government will respond by putting domestic policy issues on the national agenda. The panel believes that the balance of power can be shifted back to the 99% through community movement and the will to change the status quo.
The discussion was a great first step in advocating for the importance of combating global poverty. While there is still much work to be done, bringing together leaders from various perspectives effectively united like-minded organizations towards a common goal. If these organizations are able to raise community awareness, the panelists believe that the American public will be able to use their collective political power to instigate long term solutions in domestic poverty issues.
Becoming Uncomfortable: Discussing Moral Issues of Immigration Reform
In the last two months I have taken to this blog to update you all on the latest immigration reform efforts in Congress. I, like most who discuss immigration reform, have cited the economic benefits of a path to citizenship as well as countless other provisions in the immigration reform bill S.744. However, today I would like to discuss something different, something controversial and yet very poignant: the complete disregard of morality in talks of immigration. I myself have fallen into this argument template, and I believe that while important, it is just wrong and inhumane to solely discuss immigrants (both documented and undocumented) as a source of human capital. When we discuss matters that directly impact the lives of human beings it is important to discuss not just the economic factors, but the personal as well.
Today I was privileged to attend a forum concerning the importance of a path to citizenship in talks of immigration reform presented by the AFL-CIO and the Economic Policy Institute. The group of speakers at this event ranged from Dreamer activists, decorated professors, prominent businessmen, and current politicians including Representative Xavier Becerra and Senator John McCain. However, the most powerful impact came from undocumented Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who discussed both his personal experience being undocumented as well as multiple anecdotes that he retained from his travels, leaving those in attendance and on stage in awe. In his last words he encouraged the audience to have uncomfortable discussions surrounding the issue, and to not just fall into the same bullet pointed memos that are read by organizations or politicians.
The tone by which a path to citizenship was discussed immediately shifted at that point. What was a discussion on the economic benefits of citizenship for undocumented immigrants became a discussion of undocumented citizens as individuals trying to make a living and support and keep their family together. They were not spoken of as “illegals” or criminals but as people, no different than the millions of Americans trying to do the same, The only thing separating them being a country of birth, influenced irrefutably by chance.
Therefore it is very important for us to approach the issue of a path to citizenship from an economic perspective, but also from a human perspective. If asked to define what being an American is, many Americans would not simply a state owning or receiving a certificate of citizenship or birth. America continuously prides itself on being a nation that is inclusive and accepting. Simultaneously there is an under class of people living in the shadows without basic protections from abuse and mistreatment.
That is why a blog post like this is important. There are very few statistics that can adequately display the difficulties of living below basic protections, and there is nothing that can detail the strife of a family separated by deportation. I am not advocating against a secure border, nor am I condoning breaking the law. However, I would like to push anyone reading this post to, as Jose Vargas encouraged, be uncomfortable. I would like to encourage everyone to not look at this debate in the way that the media or Capitol Hill sells it to you. I would like to see everyone look at a path to citizenship and the availability of basic fair wages and safety net protections as a foregone conclusion when discussing reforms. To allow for these men, women, and children to obtain the rights that, despite many misconceptions, they have risked their livelihood for. We need a secure border and a reformed immigration system. However, as Americans we also need to handle our reform in a way that ensures liberty and justice for all. At least that is my definition of being an American.
Corker-Hoeven Amendment Solidifies Senate Support For Immigration Reform
This week the media has not been short on stories to report. With potentially impactful Supreme Court rulings, a new climate change initiative, and a constant onslaught of scandals, it is hard to remember that debate on comprehensive immigration reform is coming to an incredibly crucial time on the Senate floor. In recent weeks damaging amendments to the bill and the lack of the now necessary sixty vote super majority, has threatened to kill what is the most promising, albeit far from perfect, push for reform in recent memory.
However, yesterday a new compromise offered by Senators Hoeven and Corker breathed new life into immigration reform. It received support from sixty-seven senators, including fifteen Republican senators, in a crucial “test vote”. The Hoeven/Corker proposal has become essentially a rewrite of the comprehensive bill, with a newly amended border security section destined to alienate some, but also pull some undecided votes. According to a CNN article the amendment offered primarily focuses on border security. In its current state it increases the number of border agents to 20,000, builds an extended wall along Mexico, and a reported increase in security and worker identification technology.
With the test vote showing nearly seventy senators in favor of the newly amended bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has cut off other amendments to the bill and filed for cloture in hopes of maintaining the current support for the bill. This will definitely go a long way in assuring the bill’s passage in what now looks like a pretty easy conclusion in the Senate.
However, it is important to note that this bill should not be considered the end all be all reform of our immigration system. The House of Representatives has only just begun to discuss comprehensive reform and many representatives are signaling a desire to break reform into smaller pieces of legislation. No doubt a ploy to enact some measures over others, such as border security over amnesty. Key provisions and amendments have also been left out of the Senate bill in order to make it more palatable for bipartisan support. Protections for foreign workers and family reunification provisions have been softened in order to appease the bill’s opposition. While the bill will certainly overhaul our flawed system, one can only hope that future legislation is drafted with a little more teeth.
For right now, a giant leap towards reform is certainly in sight. Comprehensive reform will most likely pass the Senate by the July 4th deadline, and the adoption of the Hoever/Corker proposal will definitely gain broader support from Republican representatives. Only time will tell what the next few weeks will bring to the table.
Break the Chain’s own Tiffany Williams is featured in this article which addresses the culture of fear that comes from increased immigration enforcement and keeps trafficking victims for coming forward for fear of deportation.
"What we’ve seen on the ground is that the more aggressive they are with these [enforcement] programs, where they’re allowing local police to arrest people for being undocumented, the more that the Secure Communities programs and others are growing, the less likely it is that an immigrant survivor would be willing to come forward and ask for help," Williams says, referring to victims of trafficking and other crimes. "It impedes our work significantly," she adds.
Great New York Times editorial addressing the importance of keeping issues of border enforcement and paths to citizenship separate in any legislation focused on comprehensive immigration reform.
“President Obama plans to speak on immigration on Tuesday. We hope he stands firm on a realistic hope for citizenship, and acknowledges the unnecessary toll that overbroad enforcement — including his own — has taken on those whose legalization he has lately been championing.”
We are looking for one person to take several existing factsheets- all currently in Word form - and turn them into a unified series of factsheets with a similar aesthetic. Most of them are 2 pages (front and back). We are looking for something very modern, clean, and bright and include graphics to make them more interesting (e.g., charts, images).
This is a volunteer (unpaid) project, but you can be credited as the designer in the footer of the factsheets and receive a written recommendation (or we can serve as a reference for your future endeavors).
Ideally we are looking for someone who can commit to finishing all the current factsheets by the end of January, and who can either stay on for ocassional work (a new factsheet every 3-4 months) or who can leave the template for us for future factsheets.
To apply please send a short letter of interest describing experience, availability/timeline and a few samples of your work to firstname.lastname@example.org
Break the Chain Campaign is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. For 13 years, we have provided direct social services for domestic workers (nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers) who have survived human trafficking and worker exploitation. Currently, we focus on research, writing, policy advocacy, and training, all based on our direct service experience and our commitment to a rights-based approach. We work to deepen the connections between parallel movements of human rights, immigrant rights, worker rights, climate justice, trade and tax fairness, and demilitarization, through the lens of domestic workers fighting for justice in the US and around the world.
Project Description: The focus of this internship will be
1) Immigration rights, particularly immigrant women and families, and the rights of immigrant survivors of crime; and
2) Worker rights, particularly workers in industries historically excluded from labor protections- domestic workers, day laborers, farmworkers, and guestworkers, among others.
The work will primarily involve research, writing, and attending policy/advocacy meetings and events, with some administrative work (database entry, meeting minutes, filing, etc.) is required of all interns, but will be a small percentage of your time. We are a busy project so there is plenty of concrete work to be done! You will represent Break the Chain Campaign on national calls, at DC meetings, and will blog about your issues. You will also have the opportunity to create factsheets and other longer written materials.
Please send a cover letter describing your interest areas and experience, a resume, a relevant writing sample (2-3 pages), and your dates/hours of availability
Women of color and bilingual applicants are strongly encouraged. Some experience in legislative, community organizing, or media work is preferred but not required. You should have a good sense of humor and a relaxed attitude, but be able to meet serious, sometimes last-minute deadlines and high expectations for independence and professionalism. Thanks!
We are seeking an intepreter fluent in French (for a client from Africa) who is available for a full day of legal interpreting at the end of December (we are considering December 21st). Someone located in the District of Columbia or in Maryland would be ideal.
We are a small organization with limited funds for direct services, so we are seeking someone who is available on a pro-bono/volunteer basis.
Prior experience in a legal setting is highly desirable, and you must consent to interpreter guidelines and confidentiality because of the sensitive nature of our work.
Please send a resume a short letter of interest/experience, and a reference to email@example.com
October 25: Briefing on the impact of deportation and family separation on women at the Mexico-U.S. border
The We Belong Together campaign invites you to join us for a multimedia briefing on women, migration and the impacts of U.S. immigration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Thursday, October 25th 9:00-10:30am PST / 12:00-1:30pm EST ** Note that the briefing will be presented as a webinar, so you will need both internet and phone access in order to participate. Please RSVP to Wida Amir, firstname.lastname@example.org, to receive login instructions.
In September, We Belong Together travelled to Tijuana, Mexico to meet with women who have been deported from the United States and have been separated from their families on both sides of the border. Their testimonies are compelling evidence of the humanitarian crisis that has been created by U.S. immigration policies. They are also powerful illustrations of the bravery of migrant women who risk everything to provide a better future for their children, families and communities.
Join us for a presentation of migrant women’s testimonies, for a discussion of the issues they raise, and for a conversation on the importance of using a multinational approach to ensure the human rights of all migrants.
Please view this short video profile of Yolanda, one of the women we met in Tijuana. Like and share on Facebook to encourage others to participate.
Last Wednesday, just in time for Labor Day, the California state legislature passed the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. This legislation, inspired by a similar measure passed in New York State in 2010, provides basic workplace protections such as overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and uninterrupted sleep time for the state’s growing domestic workforce. Now awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, the bill points to a deep change in the nature of work in America.
Over the past several decades, more and more women have started to work outside of their own homes. In fact, women became the majority of the workforce in the United States in 2010. While in the past, women provided unpaid labor in the home to care for their families, the demands of their paid jobs make that labor increasingly untenable.
Ai-Jen Poo rallies with members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Enter domestic workers, whom many women hire to clean their homes, raise their children and care for their aging parents. These domestic workers – most of whom are immigrant women – now perform the intimate labor of caring for hundreds of thousands of families across the nation. And as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement and advances in medicine are prolonging all of our lives, the need for in-home caregivers is on the rise. In fact, the in-home care workforce is among the fastest growing workforces in the nation.
But as important as their labor is, domestic workers are extremely vulnerable in the workplace: isolated in private homes, working long hours often for poverty wages and more often than not without access to basic benefits such as paid sick days or health insurance. Take Thelma Reta, for example, who works as a caregiver in Los Angeles, and who for years earned as little as $35 per day for around the clock care of an elderly couple.
Reta is not the exception. Challenging conditions like hers are common, an expression of the age-old societal devaluation of women’s work in the home; and they’re bolstered by the explicit exclusion of domestic workers from many of the basic rights and protections provided to workers in this country by laws such as the National Labor Relations Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Domestic worker organizations have emerged in cities around the country to address these conditions and to bring value to the labor of care. In June 2007 they founded the National Domestic Workers Alliance to give voice to the experiences of the workforce and to promote the establishment of rights. The alliance was central to the ratification of the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010 – groundbreaking legislation that established overtime pay, a day of rest, paid leave, and protection from discrimination and harassment for domestic workers. It also raised awareness of the plight of domestic workers and created a legislative precedent that is now spreading around the country, beginning with California last week.
These Bills of Rights do more than simply reverse a legacy of discrimination in the law. They are also a call to redefine the labor of care and the work of all women, in the home and in the workplace. Comedian and actor, Amy Poehler, in a recent public service announcement in support of the California legislation put it best, “Every day so many working women get to do what they do because there are wonderful people in their home helping them.” As candidates and lawmakers around the country debate the future of jobs and the economy, they should see that New York and California are on to something.
This post was written by Ai-Jen Poo. Ai-jen is the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. She has been an advocate for the rights of immigrant women since 1995, and was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Luz, a reserved, intelligent 34-year-old Filipina from a poor farming family, moved into our high-rise apartment two years ago. One of nine children, not yet married, and with no jobs in her village, she tells me she decided to leave home rather than continue to help at her widowed mother’s grocery stall.
Thoughtful and organized, she was a wonder in our home. She toilet-trained our son when he was one and a half, taught herself American-style cooking, and cleans to meet her standards, which far outshine my own. Careful, calm and hard working, she was, and is, a role model.
At first I felt guilty for all she did. Then I became grateful, not just for how she helped us, but for basic elements of my own family life. Hard work, low pay and heartache are built into the jobs of migrant domestic workers. As a mother to two young children, it is the heartache that rattles me most.
Luz didn’t leave children at home, but many maids do. Women from countries like the Philippines and Indonesia come to the agonizing realization that they must work abroad if they want to provide adequate food, education and health care for their families. In the Philippines, for example, jobs are scarce and a mother can earn multiples more working abroad than at home. In Singapore, the average salary for a domestic worker is $300 a month, in American dollars. They’d be lucky to make a third of that for the same job in the Philippines.
Rosalyn, 39, who lives in my Singapore neighborhood, has been apart from her own children for seven years. She told me she pays an aunt in the Philippines to raise her children, ages 4, 11 and 14. “The first time I went away, I cried every night,” she says. “I still have the instinct of a mother. If they are sick, I am not there to hug them.” It breaks her heart to hear them cry on the phone, she says.
“Economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life cannot take place without effective unions. This renewal requires business, religious, labor and civic organizations to work together to help working people defend their dignity, claim their rights, and have a voice in the workplace and broader economy.”—Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif.
Even though the United States encouraged strong protections when the convention was being drafted, it is unlikely that the country will ratify C189 anytime soon. C189 requires countries to pass implementing legislation to take efforts to meet the convention’s standards, and such legislation would override our current national labor laws. Our legal standards on the treatment of domestic workers are currently too far below the international standards set up within the convention. It would not be unheard of for the United States to sign an international treaty requiring implementing legislation and declare it non self-executing,but currently, even such a limited step does not seem to be in consideration by Congress. If the United States did declare the treaty non self-executing, it would greatly limit the convention’s power and efficacy.
It’s an up-hill battle in getting the U.S. to extend labor rights to domestic workers on a national level. Toward the end of 2011 the Department of Labor published proposed changes to the regulations of the companionship exemption, which currently excludes most domestic workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act. The changes would more clearly define who falls into the exemption and what activities outside of fellowship and protection are allowed by the exemption. They would also make it so that the exemption does not apply to workers employed by third party employers, such as home healthcare agencies. The proposed changes have met with fierce opposition, and a bill was introduced to the Senate to preserve the scope of the exemption. The bill is unlikely to pass, but may have, along with negative comments submitted during the commenting period, delayed action from the Department of Labor.
“But California’s bill is about more than domestic workers in California — it’s about righting a historic wrong and paving the way for dignified work for all women, all over the country.”—CA: Paving the Way for Dignified Work for All Women
Since VAWA’s implementation, local, state, and national laws have started to change. Programs, business and communities have started to respond to victim’s needs in a more efficient way. Studies show that rates of violence and reporting of crime are going up.
Moreover, thanks to increased awareness brought on the issue of domestic violence, more than 660 state laws have passed to combat abuse including, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Also, a larger number of victims are reporting violence.
“Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere and our laws should reflect that,” said Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), a key co-sponsor of the last VAWA reauthorization in 2005. “We cannot allow VAWA to fall victim to partisan gridlock. House and Senate leaders should act now to resolve their differences and send the President a strong bill that provides life-saving services for victims of abuse, assault and rape.”
Programs and services provided or funded by VAWA would be at risk if the law is not reauthorized. Among them, community violence prevention programs; protection for victims who have been evicted from their homes due to domestic violence incidents; funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines; programs supporting immigrant women, women with disabilities and women from other ethnicities and legal aid for survivors.
“We are sorry that this case has come to an abrupt end without ever being tried. We are especially sorry because we know what we have undergone and what we are still enduring today because of Global and nothing is ever going to change that fact.”—Thai farmworkers on the dismissal of the Global Horizons case
“I think Americans are largely clueless about the labor in general that supplies their food. And whether it’s their age or their ethnicity or their legal status or any of the above I think Americans are in the dark about what’s going on.”—Child laborers in the US pick your veggies — and they’re doing it legally
A large number of the office’s investigations uncover violations. “And we’re not talking minor violations. We’re not talking about technical errors,” Su says. Her investigations routinely turn up myriad abuses: Failure to pay minimum wage and overtime. Failure to provide wage statements, so workers know how much they worked and what pay they are entitled to. Failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Falsification of records. Cash-pay violations tied to tax evasion. Abuse of “piece rate.”
In itself, paying workers for every piece they complete isn’t illegal, but companies often use it as an excuse to avoid paying the minimum wage. You see people work faster and faster. If they work too fast, management lowers the pay rate.
"The faster you work, the more you were supposed to be able to make. But it gets twisted into a ceiling on wages," Su says. "They tell workers: If you don’t get minimum wage, it’s your own fault. You were just too slow."
She makes about $15,000 a year, supporting her daughter and unemployed husband. She thought she’d be able to get health insurance after the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Then she heard that her own governor won’t agree to the federal plan to extend Medicaid coverage to people like her in two years. So she expects to remain uninsured, struggling to pay for her blood pressure medicine.
"You fall through the cracks and there’s nothing you can do about it," said the 52-year-old home health aide. "It makes me feel like garbage, like the American dream, my dream in my homeland is not being accomplished."
“When my two sons were young, I worked for the phone company and was told when I was hired that I couldn’t be sick for five years.”—Campaign for Paid Sick Days in New York City Aims to Support Working Women
If you walked into an auto-body shop and you saw an eight-year-old toiling over the open engine of a vehicle, alarms would probably go off in your head: Isn’t that child too young? Isn’t that work too hard?
Child labor laws have largely prevented this from happening, but thanks to a 1938 law that is still on the books, one sector has gone untouched when it comes to underage workers: agriculture. A recent NBC investigation discovered children as young as eight years old working in fields across America to harvest fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
Most kids are driven to the fields—where they work long hours in 100+-degree temps—because their families need the additional income. The Association of Farmworkers Opportunity Program estimates children field workers number anywhere from 400,000 to 500,000 kids.
“Half of the money goes to rent. After all of my expenses I don’t have anything left… I can’t explain how much I need the minimum wage to increase.”—Prince Jackson, a security guard at JFK airport who makes $1,000 per month.
Temporary work can be a great way for young people to gain work experience while still studying or travelling. But, as the youth jobs crisis shows no signs of abating, temp jobs have become, in many cases, an option of last resort.
The use of temporary contracts for young workers has nearly doubled since the onset of the economic crisis and young people in developed economies are far more likely than adults to be temporary employees.
Ekkehard Ernst, who heads the ILO’s Employment Trends Unit, says increases in temporary work have been particularly strong in countries hit hard by the Euro crisis
“In the European Union we see that temporary workers – or temporary contracts – are very prevalent among young people, more than among the adult population. Younger people face up to 70 per cent temporary contracts in comparison to 20 per cent for adults”, he said.
In addition, countries affected by the crisis have seen rapid increases in temporary employment since the beginning of the crisis, up to 13 percentage points in Ireland and around two-and-a-half percentage points in Spain, added Ernst.
Labor departments don’t track employment by occupation, so determining the seasonally jobless is imprecise. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics labeled 64,702 Georgians as private “educational service” workers last September, a category that includes teachers, assistants and other educators employed by private companies on contracts for public schools and universities.
Roughly 3,000 bus drivers, pre-k teachers, cafeteria workers, landscapers, janitors, crossing guards and other contractually employed Georgians applied for, and were denied, seasonal unemployment benefits this year. They could be eligible for weeks of benefits if the U.S. Labor Department’s ruling stands. Seasonal workers who didn’t apply for benefits may be eligible retroactively.
Angela Goddard, a fourth-grade teacher at Faith Christian Academy in Griffin, received summertime benefits the previous two summers. Not this year. She expected $250 in benefits weekly. Instead, Goddard borrowed $2,000 from her sister to cover the mortgage.
Monday, though, she was “crying tears of joy. This is a blessing, and what we’ve prayed for all summer.”
An uneasy sense of deja vu is building among advocates for nearly 2 million workers who help the elderly and disabled live independently in their homes.
Because of a 38-year-old amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, home health aides and personal care aides in many states can be paid less than the federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – and not receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week.
Enacted by Congress in 1974, the “companionship services exemption” was supposed to exclude baby-sitters and casual companions for the elderly from overtime and minimum wage requirements, not to waive federal pay guidelines for professional caregivers.
So after years of failed efforts to change the guidelines, President Barack Obama in December announced plans to modify the exemption and extend overtime and minimum wage protections to home-care workers employed by private companies.
Nearly 1.8 million workers in 29 states would likely see a pay boost under the proposal, according to government estimates.
But after twice extending the public comment period, the U.S. Department of Labor has yet to finalize the rule change, which must be approved by the White House and then published in the National Register before it takes effect.
On 16 June 2011 the ILO adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189), stipulating conditions of decent work for domestic workers globally, including those migrating to work beyond the borders of their countries. As an international treaty it enshrines basic rights such as protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence, elimination of forced and child labour, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, elimination of discrimination in employment, fair conditions of work such as normal hours, overtime compensation, periods of rest, annual paid leave, a minimum wage where this exists for other workers, ensuring of safe and healthy working environments, social security protection not less favourable than that applied to workers in general, written contracts that are enforceable in countries of employment for migrant workers and the right to keep in their possession their identity and travel documents.
It also places responsibility on governments to regulate practices of private employment agencies to prevent fraudulent and abusive recruitment processes, and to strengthen co-operation between sending and receiving countries in applying and monitoring the provisions of the Convention. Significantly, the Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) eventually voted for a legally binding convention, whereas support was weaker among European States, and disappointingly the UK abstained from voting.
Wyoming is the only state without statutes that specifically address human trafficking.
Mary Ellison with the Polaris Project said this diminishes Wyoming’s ability to fight the crimes.
“We are seeing more cases being presented to local law enforcement officials and local prosecutors,” she said. “They need these additional tools.”
But Wyoming officials respond that the state’s system of referring cases to the federal level is working.
Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips said it makes more sense for the state to leverage the resources of the U.S. Attorney’s Office than to have local communities handle the few cases that come up.
“The federal penalties are extremely harsh for that type of awful behavior,” Phillips said. “Because we have so much cooperation among local, state and federal officials, we have as good as a system as any other state.”
Jim Anderson, an assistant U.S. attorney based out of Cheyenne, agrees. He said there are “sufficient tools” already in place to prosecute cases in Wyoming.
He added that Wyoming is unique because of its small population and geography. He said his office has dealt with only two sex-trafficking cases in the past five years.
“We just don’t have that type of activity that other states have,” Anderson said. “And when cases are brought to the attention of law enforcement, they are treated appropriately.”
He added that many trafficking cases occur with runaway teens who are coerced into prostitution. But Wyoming does not see as many of these runaway cases as other states, he said.
But some advocates say human trafficking is a bigger problem locally than most assume.
Daniel DeCecco, Wyoming’s volunteer advocacy leader for the International Justice Mission, said he has talked with several victims and researched reports in the state where the cases never make it to the prosecution level.
“It is an issue that usually stays under the radar, but having a state law could help that,” DeCecco said. “Because Wyoming is such a large and rural state, (trafficking cases) are something that can happen without getting a lot of attention.”
A Chinese company that assembles devices for Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) hired children at its production facilities and forced employees to work excessive hours, violating labor laws, China Labor Watch said in a report.
Seven children younger than 16 were working in the factory of HEG Electronics (Huizhou) Co. that makes phones and DVD players for Samsung, according to the report issued yesterday. Child workers faced the “same harsh conditions” as adults and were paid only 70 percent of the wages of other workers, according to the New York-based group, which said it conducted investigations in June and July. Samsung will send a team of inspectors to the factory tomorrow to investigate, Nam Ki Yung, a spokesman for the company, said by telephone today.
A reminder to support the Business Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act. We should hold businesses accountable not only for their own operations, but for the operations of their supply chains.
Elected officials in Farmers Branch, Texas, deserve credit for their perseverance. They have spent four years and more than $4 million defending a misguided ordinance that bars landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. Court after court has struck down the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the federal government’s sole authority to regulate immigration. Still, city officials persist, arguing that the law is merely an attempt to regulate housing, not to target immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Now the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear the city’s appeal after a split three-judge panel blocked the ordinance. Deferring to theU.S. Supreme Courtruling in June that struck down most of Arizona’s notorious immigration law, the 5th Circuit should make clear once and for all that the ordinance in Farmers Branch and others like it are illegal encroachments on the federal government’s power to set immigration policy. Worse yet, they promote vigilantism.
“What is clear is that with increasing raids, more and more are arrested under criminal prostitution offenses. The fear is, those who should be classified as trafficked persons are being detained as criminals. Furthermore, whether because of sensationalized media coverage or simply a grand rhetoric by politicians, the awareness of human trafficking around the time of major sporting events is unparalleled. This perhaps is a double-edged sword. Awareness campaigns on trafficking are rife during sporting events, but dissipate afterwards.”—From Europe: Olympics Lead to Increased Human Trafficking Raids in London
“It is exciting to see so many state policy makers actively seeking ways to stop human trafficking, but using these new laws to save lives and hold traffickers accountable is what we are ultimately striving for. While states like Washington and Massachusetts are clearly at the top of the pack in our ratings, every state can and should do more to improve and implement their laws.”—Mary Ellison, Polaris Project’s Director of Policy