Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Speaks at 1199SEIU Townhall

January 1, 1970

Hundreds of D.C. homecare workers and their supporters met March 18th in an exuberant town hall meeting, which included a keynote speech by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who brought the crowd to its feet, urging the workers to organize and fight for a living wage, benefits and respect on the job. Additional remarks were made by economist Julianne Malveaux, the Rev. Graylan Hagler and Congresswoman Eleanor Homes Norton.“We need a million more (homecare workers) in the next 10 years,” Norton said to those assembled at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC. “They may have a hard time getting more of them if they’re not paying them.”Despite working in one of the country’s fastest growing, highest-demand occupations—allowing seniors and those with disabilities to live with dignity—homecare workers are among the lowest paid workers in the country. There are about 6,000 DC homecare workers and they have suffered widespread violations of labor law. The town hall came just weeks after D.C. homecare workers filed a class action lawsuit against district home care agencies alleging unpaid overtime and sick time and unlawful hourly compensation that could amount to $150 million. In 2014, the city’s industry was embroiled in a Medicaid investigation, which uncovered $78 million in fraud and resulted in the suspension of 13 agencies.“No one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,” said Perez, encouraging the workers to organize. “You are not babysitters, you are professionals doing some of the most important work…America is experiencing a home care crisis, and unless home care workers receive higher pay, we won’t be able to meet the long-term needs of either caregivers or our aging population.”The D.C. town hall, organized by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was one of 20 town hall events that have been held across the country in recent weeks. During these events, homecare workers meet with elected officials, community leaders and members of the clergy to build support for the “Fight for $15,” the national campaign for $15 an hour that started with fast food workers and has spread to homecare workers and other low-wage workers. DC homecare workers Michael Thompson, Paula Wilson and Gladys Negbegble sat on a panel moderated by Malveaux and told the audience of the struggles of living on low pay and minimal benefit. Negbegble said that in addition to $15 an hour, homecare workers need sick time and vacation time. The next event for the Fight for $15 movement is a national mobilization slated for April 15.- See more at: