U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez brought hundreds of D.C. homecare workers and their supporters to their feet at an exuberant town hall meeting March 18th where he urged the workers to organize and fight for a living wage, benefits and respect on the job. “No one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,” said Perez at the town hall held by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “You are not babysitters, you are professionals doing some of the most important work…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,” Perez added.
“We need a million more [homecare workers] in the next 10 years,” said DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, “and....They may have a hard time getting more of them if they’re not paying them.” Also speaking at the event at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC were economist Julianne Malveaux and the Rev. Graylan Hagler. Despite working in one of the country’s fastest growing occupations, homecare workers are among the lowest paid workers in the country. 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. There are about 6,000 homecare workers in the District. The town hall 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. Read more about the town hall.