Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Home care workers win basic labor rights

The women, and it is mostly women, who are trusted to provide care to America's elderly and disabled are finally getting some dignity for themselves. The Obama administration has made good on a promise to bring home care workers under federal wage and hour law. The announcement earlier this month was greeted by cheers from workers and complaints from the $80 billion industry that employs them. But granting home care workers basic labor rights is fair and socially beneficial. It will provide a better living for low-skilled workers and stabilize a workforce that suffers from notoriously high turnover.

For nearly the last 40 years, home health care workers have been wrongly categorized as "companionship services" similar to baby-sitters, which removed them from protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Home aides are not glorified baby-sitters. They do jobs that help seniors and the disabled stay in their homes. Without this essential and growing workforce of nearly 2 million workers, more people would end up in institutionalized care and nursing homes. Home care aides provide their clients with cooked meals, help them bathe and shop, transport them to doctor appointments and perform other chores that infirm people can no longer accomplish on their own. The only reason the companion designation has stuck around so long is that the politically powerful home care franchises wanted it that way.

Under the new federal rule, home care aides will be covered by the nation's leading wage and hour law that will grant them federal minimum wage and overtime protections. Most home care workers already make at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour ($7.79 per hour in Florida), but the promise of overtime pay of time-and-a-half after 40 hours per week could be a substantial added benefit, considering the job often demands long hours. The rule change doesn't go into effect until January 2015, which gives employers and state Medicaid programs plenty of time to adjust.

The people in these jobs are a vulnerable group of low-wage, service workers. Ninety-two percent are women, and about 40 percent are black and Hispanic. Many are immigrants. These are often single mothers raising families, but the wages they take home are so low that 40 percent of them qualify for government safety net benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid.

The industry claims the added cost of overtime pay will limit access to in-home care and land the elderly in nursing homes instead. It warns that home care workers will lose out when agencies cut back on hours rather than award overtime. The evidence suggests otherwise. Fifteen states already provide minimum wage and overtime protections to home care aides. No negative impacts on workers' hours or on the utilization of in-home services have resulted.

The rule change recognizes in-home care as a real job. This raises the job's stature, makes recruitment into the field easier and helps retains the best care providers. That will be good for economy and for the elderly and their families who rely so heavily on this care.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17