Ai-jen Poo

Homecare workers left out of minimum wage, OT protections

Most people think that the right to earn the minimum wage, like child labor laws, is a given throughout our economy. But there’s an entire workforce that’s been left out — and it’s the second-fastest growing occupation in our nation. 

I’m referring to the two million homecare workers in our country today, who continue to be excluded from not only the right to minimum wage, but also overtime and basic protections that most of us take for granted.  

Read the whole article at thehill.com »

Roll Back Low Wages: 9 Stories of New Labor Organizing in the United States

In this study, labor journalist Sarah Jaffe, whose writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Nation, and In These Times and who works as co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, examines this series of low-wage workers’ movements that has gained strength in recent years for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Including fast food strikes and the fight for a $15 minimum wage; retail, grocery store, restaurant, and taxi workers; Carwasheros, domestic and home care workers, and those living in the U.S. under guestworker visas; Jaffe explores how these movements overlap and connect.

Jaffe explores the impact that low-wage workers’ movements are playing in revitalizing labor, and indeed much of the left, creating alliances and waging offensive battles at a time when too much of the progressive community has been stuck playing defense. They are doing everything they can to ensure that the defeat of precarity, and not its continuance, will be the most important trend in the U.S economy in the years to come.

Click on the link below to download a pdf of the study.

With New Protections Tied Up in the Courts, Home Health Care Workers Aren't Waiting Around

Almost two years after the Obama administration extended historic labor protections to the nation’s 1.79 million home healthcare workers, those new rights remain in limbo. In September 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to amend a longstanding regulation that has excluded them from earning the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, and compensation for travel on the job. For home healthcare workers in the United States—a group that is nearly 90 percent female—this move marked a significant step towards setting a floor of decent labor standards.

But the rule-change, which was set to go into effect on January 1st, now faces a challenge in federal court, and critics say state legislators are using the ongoing litigation as an excuse to avoid implementing the new protections. At the same time, given that most home healthcare workers are paid through Medicaid and Medicare—two underfunded public programs—many also worry that states will respond to the rule-change by curtailing consumers’ access to quality care. Activists across the country are working to pressure their lawmakers to reckon with these new standards and avoid potential calamity. . . .

National Domestic Workers Alliance Director, Ai-jen Poo, Named Top 15 World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine

As the leader of one of the most significant new forces in organized labor, Ai-jen Poo has become the foremost advocate for living wages and health care benefits for the often ignored and underpaid nannies, housekeepers, and other at-home caregivers all over the country.” – Fortune.com

(New York, NY)— Fortune Magazine named Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), to the 2015 World’s Greatest Leaders List, the magazine’s annual list of the most influential in the world.

The global plight of domestic workers: few rights, little freedom, frequent abuse

An estimated 53 million people, mostly women, are employed as domestic workers in private households around the world.

While domestic workers are now considered crucial to the smooth running of national economies, as a workforce they remain one of the most vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and modern-day slavery.

Human rights campaigners have catalogued a litany of exploitation faced by domestic workers at the hands of their employers, including forced labour, rape, daily beatings and being forced to work long hours with no breaks.

According to the International Domestic Workers Federation, employers who exploit or underpay their domestic workers make $8bn (£5.1bn) a year in illegal profits.

The vulnerability of domestic workers is rooted in the nature of their work – typically undertaken behind closed doors in private homes far from their own communities – and the lack of legal protection they receive.

Though critical to the functioning of national economies, only 10% of domestic workers have the same basic labour rights as other sectors. A quarter of all domestic workers are not afforded any legal rights at all.

How to Solve the Looming Care Deficit: Author Ai-Jen Poo says taking care of home care workers is a first step

The number of Americans needing at-home care will increase dramatically as baby boomers age. By the year 2035, there are expected to be 11.5 million people over age 85 in the U.S., compared to 5 million today.

A large number of people won't have the resources to pay for this care unless something changes. Add to this a shortage of home health care workers and underfunded social programs for the elderly, and a perfect storm is on the way.

Despite the challenging outlook, author Ai-Jen Poo says this collision of events presents an opportunity to address the needs of families, home care workers and taxpayers all at once.

Speaking Thursday at "The Future of Eldercare: What We Need for a Changing America," a Washington, D.C., panel hosted by New America, Poo offered a three-pronged approach to help close the coming gap in needs and services. First, improve the quality of care and access to quality care, she said. Second, make sure there are plenty of choices in terms of aging at home. And third, improve the quality of home health care jobs, making sure that the workforce is secure and can support their own families.

Ai-jen Poo, Still Alice and the “Care Revolution”

“In the darkest of times, you can always find incredible oases of connection, of care and of love,” said Still Alice director Wash Westmorelandto an intimate gathering of some of Hollywood’s most inspiring artists and creative leaders at Soho House in West Hollywood last Monday.

Celebrating the remarkable activist work of 2014 MacArthur “Genius” fellow and director of theNational Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen Poo, and the Academy Award-winning “story of care,”Still Alice, the private luncheon highlighted the pressing need for a “care revolution in America” and the importance of celebrating the unsung heroes and caregivers of our lives.

'Age of Dignity' Author, Caregivers Call for Home-Worker & Immigrant Rights

SAN FRANCISCO--Pam Tau Lee recently faced an unintended consequence of U.S. immigration policy when one of her parents’ care workers called from a Texas detention center.

Frightened and in tears, caregiver Joy had been stopped on a bus ride to Florida where she was going to see her grandson turn one year old and attend a family reunion. Immigration officials confiscated Joy’s medications, Lee said, and held Joy for a month before an immigration attorney could secure her release pending her hearing this month.

Joy is one of 2 million care workers in the United States, many of them immigrants, who are called on to serve the nation’s rapidly aging population even as they struggle to get by with little pay and few job protections.

Lee, who chairs the Chinese Caregiver Association in San Francisco, says her father at first didn’t answer when he got the call from the Texas detention center. He didn’t know what, “Do you accept a collect call?” meant. Eventually, he answered.

Pathway to Citizenship

America’s boomers and undocumented immigrants need each other

Many have already called Judge Andrew Hanen’s temporary stop to President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration shortsighted.

I’m one of those people, but probably not for the reasons you might think. It’s not only because helping millions of undocumented immigrants legalize their status and come out of the shadows will strengthen our communities and economy, and is the moral and right thing to do.

There’s a dimension of immigration policy that is rarely discussed, yet each one of us should bear in mind: every American who intends to grow old with dignity and independence should embrace this action — including Judge Hanen.

Activist Ai-jen Poo: "We Owe It to Ourselves to Support People's Living"

It's a bitterly cold early February afternoon and Ai-jen Poo - a 2014 MacArthur "genius" award winner, author of a just-released book called The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, co-founder of the 15-year-old New York City-based Domestic Workers United, and the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance - is sipping tea in a bustling café in downtown Brooklyn. I'm five minutes early for our prearranged meeting, but it's clear that Poo has been nestled in a corner table, writing and preparing a presentation, for a while. Waving hello, she motions for me to sit while she finishes a call. Her focus then shifts and she graciously prepares to be interviewed. She smiles widely, warmly. And while I suspect she's answered each of my questions many times before, she evinces neither boredom nor annoyance. Instead, she gives me her wholehearted attention and appears to think deeply about everything I ask.

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