Friday, October 31, 2014

Home care workers left out again while military spending climbs

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Three years ago Obama came out in support of a Department of Labor rule that would change labor law and would remove the exemption that prevents workers in the home-care industry from being covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The FLSA provides some legal protection for most American workers and was adopted in 1938 amid the rise of the CIO, the factory occupations (two years after the Flint 44-day occupation) and the growth of industrial unionism.

Under heavy lobbying (bribing), the Department of Labor is holding off on implementing the proposed changes which is pleasing the right- wingers who think the change should be scrapped, “The fact that the department plans to ignore its own rule after it goes into effect should be proof enough that it should be scrapped altogether”, says Lamar Alexander, a Senator from Tennessee, according to Business Week. This is the guy who, when he was Governor, “ paid $1 for an option to buy a Knoxville newspaper with a group of friends, and later traded the right for stock worth $620,000.” ( NY. Times.) That, my friends, is not work---it’s having connections and using public office for personal gain, it's how they build contacts.

When it comes to home care workers, Lamar and other wasters with their snouts in the public trough, have unusual partners. Disability rights groups are also opposed to home care workers coming under the FSLA.  Their argument is that if the health care worker is allowed to work overtime, receive the minimum wage and travel time that are provisions under the Act, without “increasing the amount of government money able to pay for them” BW writes, it will mean hours will be cut and services to the disabled will worsen. “In the absence of an increase in Medicaid funding to cover those costs, we are going to see people with disabilities have our services reduced in quantity and quality,” says Ari, Ne’eman, who is the president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

The ASA and Ne’eman are joined by the Center for Disability Rights and what the Journal describes as the “Grass roots” organization Adapt. Adapt organized a protest outside the home of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and though he supports the right of workers to paid “fair” wages (whatever that means. Fair to whom? The boss or the workers) Bruce Darling, an Adapt spokesperson argues that, “To pay those wages, people with disabilities are going to lose their freedom.” Why is that so? Is it in the Bible?

So Mr. darling and people claiming to be defending the rights of some of the most unfortunate among us, find themselves in bed with some of the most privileged among us in an offensive against another section of the working class that is extremely exploited and abused.  I have spoken to people that work with the disabled and those that are in such a condition that they need someone to wipe their own backsides.  Just lifting a human being takes a lot of work.It is not easy.

We know that capitalism doesn’t value social work because there’s no money in it unless your capital is tied up in private facilities that can profit from misfortune or simple old age while paying paupers wages.

My mother had a debilitating stroke, I am well aware of what home help does.  As the Journal puts it, they, “…help with daily activities like bathing, moving around the house, and eating meals, and with tasks like paying bills. They can also assist with medication, change surgical bags, and help with rehabilitation exercises.” Right, changing people’s waste bags isn’t worth paying much for is it? In Kansas, the Journal reports, Medicaid pays “….just $25 a night to workers who provide ‘sleep cycle support,’ which can involve turning clients and emptying catheter bags.”

Home help is a very lucrative business for private capital because it is the fastest growing industry in the US and a huge section of the industry is funded by the taxpayer through Medicare and other programs.

The average home care worker makes $17,000 a year and the BLS reckons there will be about three million of them by 2020. What an incredibly important and human role these workers play in society compared o Donald Trump say, or Lamar Alexander for instance.

What the disability rights people should be doing is joining with home-care workers to raise their wages and improve their working conditions.  Our taxes would be better used training them in all sorts of medical and health procedures that would help them improve care and they should be well paid for such socially important work.

Alexander and others like him want to keep pay low for everyone because he profits from it as an investor.  He opposes public expenditure unless it is to offer opportunities to the private sector to profit from public funds, like private toll-ways and the like. The offense industry gave a real boost to the economy in the last quarter and none of the small government folks have a problem with that.  “Government spending----the vast majority due to military expenditure----posted its largest increase since 2009.” the Wall Street Journal reports in a separate article.

The position the disability rights advocates are taking here is flawed in so many ways. They are allowing themselves to be part of the crowd that take from one section of the working class to give to another, in this case, they are accepting that it will be the health worker that will mired in poverty in order for the disabled to continue to receive what is already an inadequate service. They are accepting that there is no money available. But that’s not the case is it.  It’s a matter of priorities. These predatory wars of US capitalism are costing trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

We all know that poverty, insecurity, social alienation, low self esteem, all this contributes to drug and alcohol abuse, destroys personal relations and the family and leads to all sorts of medical problems.

Where is the outrage in this country that human beings are doing such important and laborious work for $350 a week. The sorters at our local dump, another crucial social function, have just been led out on strike for a week by their officials and voted to go back yesterday, the union leadership of other unions attacked them in the process.  They earn about $12 an hour and will receive (maybe) less than $2 an hour raise a year over the next five years bringing them up to $21 by 2019.  An official of the International union representing the workers says of the settlement that it will, “dramatically improve their wages”.  What do you think he earns?  There will be nothing “dramatic” about $21 an hour in 2020, it’s not enough to live ion here in California now.

This cannot go on.  This country will explode at some point.  The union leadership to be quite honest is ideologically bankrupt and we will not change the situation without removing them through huge internal political battles.  It is incredible that the likes of Lamar Alexander and all the 1% politicians in both parties that all get rich off the taxpayer can even get an echo in society, can even dare show their face for fear of being torn apart by their victims like the poor, disabled, workers who have lost jobs, homeowners who have lost homes, veterans whose lives have been shattered while the likes of Dick Cheney profit from war.

They are spitting in our faces.

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