Join JCA and Take Action to Support Senior Care Givers

This is a guest post by Vic Rosenthal, Executive Director of Jewish Community Action
Jewish Community Action (JCA) has been working closely with national and local Jewish social justice organizations as part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.  The goal of the roundtable is to elevate social justice as an integral part of the Jewish community. Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice (PJA & JFSJ) have developed a national campaign to support senior care givers and JCA is an active partner.
While the number of elderly Americans who need home care is exploding, the number of Jews needing home care is proportionally even higher – with at least 19 percent of American Jews now 65 or older, as compared with 12 percent of the general population.
As many of us here in our own congregations and communities know, families struggle to care for their elderly or disabled loved ones at home, and frequently must hire someone to assist a fragile family member with their most intimate needs, such as walking, bathing, eating, dressing, and ensuring that medications are taken properly.
The future of home care is a top concern for the Jewish community.
Thus, a critical problem we must address is that half of all home care workers leave the job each year due to low pay and difficult working conditions.  This extraordinary turnover has obvious implications for both the quality of care and for whether there will be enough home care workers to fill the need in the long run.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed by Congress in 1938 with the goals of fighting poverty by raising workers’ wages, and stimulating economic growth – goals as important today as they were back then – but excluding America’s 1.7 million home care workers from minimum wage and overtime laws undermines those goals. Our tradition teaches the importance of caring for our elders and treating workers fairly.
Supporting this campaign is one way we can bring these values to life, right now.
For decades, America’s home care workers have been excluded from the same minimum wage and overtime guarantees that most of us take for granted. This exclusion makes no sense, but is a vestige of a long history of devaluing the work of women and African Americans under federal labor laws.
President Obama has proposed a rule change to include home care workers in those eligible for a minimum wage and overtime, and now we have a chance to make sure this happens by participating in the public comment period, which ends on February 27.
While there are many good employers in the home care industry, a well-organized contingent is using scare tactics to try to maintain the status quo.
It is very important that the Obama Administration hears the other side, and that the Department of Labor receives as many supportive comments as possible. It is also important that they hear from a diverse group of people – and especially from members of the Jewish community who support the proposed change. Both the number of comments submitted and their substance will be heavily weighed as the final regulations are written. We need to make sure that the Obama Administration sees that leaders in the faith community support these wage and overtime protections to ensure that they are not watered down as they are codified.
Please take a few moments to submit a supportive comment to the Department of Labor through our website, where you can also find sample comments, talking points, FAQs and much more information about the proposed rule change; the process is easy and will take just a few minutes, but will have a big impact.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with Vic Rosenthal, (651) 632-2184 or [email protected].
(Photo: karathepirate)