President Obama has been trying to change the fact that nearly 1.8 million working people, most of them women and many of them people of color, are excluded from minimum wage and overtime protections because they are home care workers. Now, Senate Republicans are trying to block these workers, close to 40 percent of whom are paid so little that they rely on Medicaid or food stamps despite doing an essential job, from getting paid minimum wage or overtime.
Remember that a full-time minimum wage worker makes just $ 15,080 a year. Home care workers in most states aren’t required to be paid that. And that’s how Senate Republicans want to keep it:
Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., along with 11 other lawmakers, introduced a bill known as the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to preserve the current state of the law’s so-called companionship services exemption.
The exemption was created under the assumption that in-home “companions” were very part-time babysitters and the like, not the full-time, medical services-providing workers to whom Obama is trying to extend the most wage basic protections the United States has to offer. “As the homecare business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up,” Obama noted in introducing his push:
So even though workers like Pauline do everything from bathing to cooking, they’re still lumped in the same category as teenage babysitters when it comes to how much they make. That means employers are allowed to pay these workers less than minimum wage with no overtime. That’s right—you can wake up at 5:00 in the morning, care for somebody every minute of the day, take the late bus home at night, and still make less than the minimum wage.
It’s no surprise Senate Republicans want to keep things that way.