1199SEIU Calls on NY City Council to Revamp Homecare BillSeptember 6, 2022
For Immediate Release
Bill to eliminate the “24-hour” shift is well-intentioned but, as written, would create major disruption to homecare services and cause workers to lose pay and jobs.
New York, NY—Today, 1199SEIU homecare workers testified at the City Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee regarding Intro 175. This bill restricts the maximum working hours of homecare workers but is written in such a way that would cause major disruption to homecare services throughout the city, jeopardizing care, jobs, and capping workers’ ability to earn overtime pay.
For many years, worker and consumer advocates have called for an end to the 24-hour workday, the practice of homecare workers getting paid only 13 hours per 24-hour shift (the remaining hours for workers to be off the clock for meal and rest breaks, but which is often disrupted).
Intro 175 would eliminate such 24-hour shifts in favor of two split 12-hour shifts, but also prevent workers from earning the overtime pay that many rely on to support their families, capping the workweek to 50 hours. Workers would instead be forced to take second jobs at other agencies and work even longer hours to maintain the same level of income as a result of losing overtime eligibility, or leave the homecare industry entirely.
For many years, homecare workers were excluded from wage and hour protections because of racist provisions in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act aimed at domestic and agricultural workers. The right to overtime pay was a hard-won struggle for home care workers, finally achieved under the Obama administration, and the City Council should not be limiting it.
Intro 175 does not add any additional dollars to the homecare system, which is funded by the state through Medicaid, and would cause an industry shortfall of about $700 million. This funding crisis would cause homecare agencies to withdraw from 24-hour cases, forcing over 17,000 homecare clients into nursing homes and causing caregivers to lose their jobs. The City Council, which does not oversee homecare funding, should not make this sweeping change to the homecare system without coordination with the state budget process to guarantee the necessary funding is in place.
1199SEIU has long advocated for the abolition of the exploitive 24-hour workday, and won a major class-action arbitration against homecare agencies this year, setting up a Special Wage Fund, now nearing $40 million, which will be distributed to workers. The deadline for workers to submit claims is September 27, and so far approximately 40,000 workers have signed-on, with thousands more expected in the coming weeks. The is by far the largest recoupment of lost wages for homecare workers to date in New York.
I cannot afford to work fewer hours,” said Francisco A. Javier Castillo, a homecare worker and member of 1199SEIU. “If my hours were capped at my current agency, I would be forced to take a second job at another agency. where I would have to work even more hours because I wouldn’t be getting overtime pay. I appreciate having only one client that I know well. Many of my co-workers can only get four-hour shifts and need to work at multiple agencies to put together full-time work hours. Until home care workers are paid more, I will need to keep working more than 50 hours a week. This bill would only hurt home care workers and clients. It will not help us.”
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in New York and nationwide. We represent over 450,000 total members throughout New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.