OpEd: In-home care workers deserve fair pay for overtime work

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

By Senator Connie M. Leyva
San Bernardino Sun

Home care is a demanding job. Those who do it often are family members or trusted friends of residents who require in-home support to remain safe and healthy. They rely on In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) wages in lieu of other income in order to stay home with their loved ones.

They are, in my judgment, heroes.

They allow our neighbors and loved ones who need round-the-clock care to live at home with dignity — at a much lower cost to taxpayers than institutionalized care. They offer families comfort and assurance that their loved ones are in caring hands.

So many of these working families lost financial security during the recession as jobs were eliminated and wages trimmed. Now that our economy is rumbling back to life, providing a livable wage and equal rights to workers who contribute greatly to our state must be a priority.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor adopted regulations which permitted 400,000 California home-care workers who care for 490,000 in-home care recipients to receive overtime pay.

The California Legislature voted to extend overtime pay to low-wage, in-home caregivers in California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law and funds were built into the state budget. In a very real way, California policymakers made a commitment to the hundreds of thousands of workers who care for some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.

In light of a recent court ruling invalidating the Department of Labor’s action to provide IHSS workers with overtime pay, Gov. Brown’s administration announced that it will not authorize overtime pay, which would have gone into effect this year.

There is nothing in the ruling that prevents California from leading the way — as it has so many times before — and doing what is right.

As a longtime advocate for fair and livable wages and ensuring that our leaders point our state’s compass toward a justice that is realized by increased support for workers and their families, I support the authorization of overtime pay for IHSS employees.

I urge Gov. Brown to keep his commitment to the 400,000 workers whose jobs are part of the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program so that we can continue to take quality care of our aging population and people with disabilities in our communities. In spite of making only — on average — $10 an hour, most IHSS home-care workers do not get paid leave, health care or retirement benefits.

Homecare workers do very difficult — and oftentimes unnoticed and underappreciated — work. They deserve the respect and fair pay fitting for the very demanding job that they do every single day for our families, friends, neighbors and communities. After all, these hardworking Californians provide essential services that promote independence, dignity and a better quality of life for the people they serve.

I firmly believe that IHSS workers deserve to be able to pay their bills, support their families and continue serving their communities. The best way to do that is to ensure that they are paid a fair and truly livable wage.

Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, represents the 20th State Senate District, which includes the cities and communities of Bloomington, Chino, Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, Pomona, Rialto and San Bernardino.