Here’s something we don’t see every day: A NYT op-ed that Via Meadia can support — at least to some degree. In a Times piece, Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein argue that health care aides should be covered by the same labor laws — including the right to overtime — as other workers:
The title may have changed, but the work has remained the same: a combination of basic bodily care and housekeeping. That care workers substituted for the unpaid labor of wives and mothers further confused their status. So did the home location. As one 64-year-old worker told Congress in 2007, “I would get time and a half pay for my overtime hours for performing the same tasks for Mrs. G. if she were in a nursing home facility. But because my work helps her to stay in her home, I am deprived of overtime pay.”The “elder companion exemption” has allowed staffing agencies to avoid paying overtime. It treated women who labored to support their families as if they were teenagers picking up some spending money. Conveniently, this exemption came just as home care became a growth industry, aided by changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs. Beginning with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, these programs funneled more public money to for-profit firms, generating a vast home health industry — with a tenfold increase in for-profit agencies during the first half of the 1980s alone. By the 1990s, home care was the fourth largest occupation.
This argument is basically correct. Overall, at VM we think that labor law in the US needs a substantial overhaul to promote rather than to penalize self employment and small business growth. And the minimum wage law is one of the policies that needs a second look, as in some economically depressed areas a national uniform minimum wage does more harm than good. But home care is a job, and increasingly it is run as an industry. Large employers working in this field should pay the federal minimum wage to their employees. And overtime for workers on an hourly wage is also reasonable and fair.There is a stronger case for maintaining the exemption for individuals and very small companies; some of these arrangements are pretty informal and there is no need why granny should go through a lot of paperwork when making an arrangement with a couple who live across the street that works for both parties. But it’s clear that most of the activity taking place in this field has nothing to do with the traditional person-to-person home aide market.Not everything in America needs to be formalized, and sauce for the goose isn’t always the right choice for the gander, but when large corporations deploy a large number of employees across the United States, those employees should not be made second class citizens. Equal treatment under the law: that’s what the colonists were fighting for in 1776, and we should be applying it now.There should, however, still be a granny clause.