Re: Guest Post - Witt


The NPR story is good.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 1:22 PM
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Nobody wants to comment... too depressing?

Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:19 PM
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I'll just go to a thread where I'm somebody.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:22 PM
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This is the kind of post that should have an orange title; I'm not sure commenting here is the appropriate response to it, unless you have a concrete proposal.

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:25 PM
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It is asking people to take action - -you click on the link in the post to submit a comment in favor of the change.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:32 PM
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The thing is, other than cleaning up the shit, being a PCA could be a really decent job in some utopian version of this society, that did not so closely resemble Hell.

One thing I note is that the need for PCAs in the local Somali community has meant that there are halfway-decent jobs available for a lot of Somali women. If we had a national healthcare scheme that fully funded such work, and protections for those workers, we'd be a good chunk of the way to a better world.

I told an anecdote here last year about a depressing conversation between two PCAs that I heard on the bus. My main takeaway from that was that even the very few protections now offered to those workers are routinely circumvented by the agencies which hire them.

Torch and pitchfork time!

Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:37 PM
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Agricultural workers, and domestic help were not covered by the 1936 labor laws because Roosevelt bill had to cater to Southern Democrats, who wanted to make sure that as few black people as possible were covered. MN Senator Lundeen's bill, H.R. 2827 would have remedied that, but he was regarded as a Communist.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:38 PM
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I get the impression from the NPR story that most domestic workers were added in 1974, but home caregivers were excluded.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 2:39 PM
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The variations among how these workers are treated is amazing. E.g., my mom has recently hired an HHA to help my dad at home while she goes back to work (he's at home between chemo treatments), and considered two choices: A charges $20/hr, of which $10 went to the worker and $10 to the agency; B charges $18/hr, of which $15 goes to the worker and $3 to the agency.

She went with B, of course. This is week 1, so we'll see how it goes.

Posted by: Osgood Yousbad | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 3:19 PM
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I thought that they were included too. I knew it was shit work but had no idea that they weren't subject to minimum wage laws. I'll make sure to submit a proper comment.

Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 3:19 PM
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It's an interesting case of what happens when just market forces are involved - if the NPR interviewees are accurately describing things, the vast majority of workers still get minimum wage or above, but they're shafted on the less visible things - especially travel time, but also overtime.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 3:28 PM
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6, 9: It's a high-churn field so there's always lots of turnover, but there really are meaningful differences in how different agencies work. Many HHAs are 1099 independent contractors, but others are payroll employees.

Most have some form of training, but it varies wildly in terms of how professional and how portable (meaning employer to employer) it is.

The major value in regulations like these is that they put a floor under the worst agencies. There's a HHA employer who calls into to the NPR program to say he's glad of the regulation since his agency is competing with others who aren't as scrupulous.

He's pretty unusual in that he also apparently recognizes that his employees shouldn't actually be DOING this work 60 hours a week, because it makes for bad care.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 3:39 PM
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During the mercifully-brief time when my grandmother was in a nursing home but was required to have additional round-the-clock attention (itself kind of an organizational fiasco/scam - shouldn't a private nursing home be able to handle one 90-year-old woman?), we were paying her aides $20-25 per hour. But that would have been 1099 income, if in fact it was reported at all.
Overtime's interesting - one of the aides worked in the nursing home as a salaried employee during the day and then did this kind of thing on the night shift.

Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 3:45 PM
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6: After watching my mother, her stud-muffin, and their full-time aides interacting until he (at 93) and she (at 90) both died, I don't see how that could ever be a fun job even if some automated shit-dealing-with machine (a Bathroomba?) were developed.

Those old folks can be damned difficult, irrational, and downright verbally abusive even when their diapers are clean, depending on their mental states and what the docs have dealt out that week.

Seeing those two decay off into the sunset has made my offing myself earlier rather than later seem a very reasonable decision.

Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 4:10 PM
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The phrase seems to be gathering momentum:

But Gingrich, as his supporters like to point out, is a licensed scholar. His MA thesis at Tulane on the effects of the Russian Revolution on French diplomacy (1968) ran 184 pages; his Ph.D. dissertation on postwar Belgian education policy in the Congo was nearly twice as long and relied on sources in French. The latter production comes to its first aimless but provocative paradox at the start of the third paragraph: "It would be just as misleading to speak in generalities of 'white exploitation' as it once was to talk about 'native backwardness.' We need to know what kind of exploitation, for what reasons, and at what price." The pompous show of evenhandedness is nicely geared to approximate the thoughtless person's idea of a thinking man.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 4:31 PM
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I was a HHA for a little while. There were parts of it that could be rewarding, but mostly it was incredibly stressful. I found that I really value the alienation that comes with even a medical office. Being someone's personal servant is... emotionally fraught, shall we say. I got out because I could.

This essay was on zunguzungu's last Sunday Reading. It's about a CNA who tried to organize her nursing home. It's really wonderful.

Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 5:08 PM
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oops.. 16 was me

Posted by: The Artful Chicken | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 5:23 PM
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My grandmother was appalled to learn that my grandfather's evening HHA would sometimes let her son (preschoolish) sleep in the car until her sister could come get him, so she insisted on bringing the boy in, feeding him cookies and talking him through crafts, then putting him to bed herself. This in turn appalled my aunt, who thought it was totally inappropriate to be basically providing babysitting for the person who was being paid to more or less babysit my grandpa. But grandma insisted on being humane, which makes me happy.

I have another relative who was the judge who desegregated the local schools and ruled on a major case ending discrimination in management decisions at the steel mill (a big family issue since my great-grandfather as a middle manager got lots of Depression-era flak for his race/ethnicity-blind hiring, or so the story goes) and his current HHA is black, as were most of my grandpa's, and the daughter of a steelworker who was one of the litigants who ended up a manager with all sorts of backpay thanks to my relative. Appqrently both families find this meaningful and interesting, which is why the HHA brought it up in the first place, but it also strikes me as very sad.

Cleaning up shit is not a job I enjoy at all. Thanks to Witt for posting us and giving us an action plan. I have no idea what her MB type may be, but she manages to be awesome in useful ways, which impresses me a lot.

Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 5:27 PM
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Thanks for this, Witt.

I worked as an HHA for a while after college, and indeed it was challenging, with clients running the gamut from the abusive chain-smoking shit-smearing older man who would have preferred that I wasn't there, to the lovely woman whom I accompanied to the grocery store twice-weekly, and who provided me with a nice plate of biscuits whenever I arrived. It's an emotional roller coaster if nothing else. Minimum wage. It was clear to me at the time that the agency knew its contractors would get out as soon as they could.

Will review the links you provide, and leave comments.

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 5:59 PM
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Thanks to everyone who submitted comments! Belated apologies to our non-US commenters for not being clear that this was an American issue in the post.

And Biohazard, I know you've talked before about what kind of quality of life you'd be willing to live with, but I just want to say that I very much hope you're alive and kicking (or at least commenting) for a long while yet. And if there is any personal/emotional/pharmaceutical support you need to make that happen, please take it. We like you 'round these parts, or at least I do.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 8:17 PM
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my grandmother in savannah had the advantage of having money, so she hired care-givers and was able to stay in her home till the end of her life. they preferred to be paid under the table, which my dad wouldn't do; they always borrowed in advance of their salary which my dad hated because then he felt like they were working for free for ages; some people weren't nice, or robbed her (in this last case it just goes to show you should never hire a white person; she was the only one ever stole from us.)

they were her constant companions. they gave the jobs to each other's nieces when times got bad; the (various and sundry) kids slept over all the time as long as they were quiet. she wanted nothing less than to have her own family change her diaper; having aides to do that let her live with dignity, what she needed to feel dignified. these women were untrained, but great at the job of caring for her (we went through a weeding-out period when my dad took over the finances, and only the awesome women were left. plus their nieces who were all lovely as well.)

I have no doubt that peevish, longstanding refusal to see black people ever make decent pay for hard work has been behind every kind of opposition to this law, at least in the south. fuck that shit.

Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01-17-12 8:39 PM
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California is ahead of the curve on this. About ten years ago now, SEIU drove legislation that both recognized labor rights for home health aides and organized them into a huge statewide union, They succeeded where others had failed by building strong alliances with the disability community, who had previously been worried that empowered, organized home health care workers would result in a loss of advantage to the disabled.

Then there was a terrible scandal with the head of the new union turning into a till-looting cult-of-personality nutter, but he's been ousted and decent oversight restored. The guy had style, though.

Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-18-12 12:26 AM
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My sister is a home-care assistant, or rather was, she's switched to a desk-based job in a related agency this month. Here in the UK minimum wage laws apply to her, but she only gets paid for her time with the clients. Which means all the time traveling to and from their houses is unpaid, and can be considerable. Furthermore, if the gap between clients is more than a certain amount of time, she gets clocked off. The people who devise these schemes: bastards.

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-18-12 2:31 AM
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Thanks, Witt, I submitted a comment.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-18-12 9:45 AM
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You have not lived until you have cleaned up your mother in law's poop.

Posted by: Anon | Link to this comment | 01-18-12 2:47 PM
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