THE BLOG

Home Care Workers Rely on Unions, and We Rely on Them

05/16/2014 04:03 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2014
  • Ai-jen Poo Ai-jen Poo is Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of Caring Across Generations, and Co-Founder of Make It Work.

Union membership ensures the wellbeing of home care workers and those they care for. By endorsing de-unionization, the Wall Street Journal belittles the support caregivers provide our loved ones everyday.

All of us, at some point in our lives, will need care. The vast majority of us - 90 percent in fact - will want to stay at home for as long as possible. Home care workers make this happen. They provide the critical medical care and assistance with day-to-day activities that allow our parents and grandparents to age at home with dignity.

Many home care workers though, by the very nature of their job, are socially isolated. Most earn poverty wages with a median annual pay of less than $21,000. They often work long hours, perform hard physical labor, and have little to no benefits that allow them to plan and save for their own future and potential long-term care needs. Working in the shadows like this, often with little job security and vulnerable to exploitation, are exactly when unions are so important.

The progress made by Michigan home care workers since 2005, which includes better wages, benefits and training, was undone when Michigan legislators decided in 2012 to exclude them from the state's definition of public employees. This move barred home care workers from their basic right of joining a union, thereby compromising the quality of care our loved ones receive.

Without adequate wages, benefits and training, the home care workforce is not sustainable. And we need it to be. The face of our country is changing rapidly. Every eight seconds in the U.S., someone turns 65, and nearly 70 percent will need long-term care. The country is not prepared to meet the need for care workers. We must ensure these workers receive the pay and the dignity they deserve. The future of our families and communities depends on it.

This statement is in response to the Wall Street Journal editorial that was published on May 14, 2014 that supports Michigan lawmakers who excluded thousands of home care workers from their unions, claiming the majority of membership was coerced.

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