Detroit News reports and political developments brought both smiles and frowns to home-based health and daycare workers across the country. President Obama announced that he was implementing coverage for home health care workers under the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is good news for 2 million such workers, though few get full time hours much less overtime. On the other hand reports from around the states in USA Today documented the cutbacks coming for home based day care and similar workers because of the terrible budget situations in state after state.
All of this is important, not simply because these are lower waged workers who need and deserve a break, but also because these types of workers have been the single most important organizing success for our generation of labor organizers, enrolling probably between 500,000 and 750,000 new members from these new job classifications in recent decades. The outstanding success story of SEIU’s Illinois based local 880 growing from zero members 25 years ago to a 70,000 member powerhouse is one of the best examples along with the over 125,000 home care local in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Illinois is one of the states that seems poised to cutback on financing for home day care workers, where it has been a leader in both coverage and unionization.
Labor undeniably was a primary voice in lobbying the White House for this expansion of coverage, so props are in order. Now the harder, unsung fights will be in state legislature after state legislature trying to hold onto these jobs in the face of fiscal assaults.
The irony was clear in the USA Today story. We are in the heart of the recession still, and lower waged workers depend on this child care support to allow them to access and retain their jobs. Now when most needed, the waiting lists (more than 10,000 in Louisiana alone for example!) are swelling for such family support.
Hard to catch a break!