We recently had the pleasure of meeting Mandy, the host of PhilosophyofHealth.org, who discusses navigating her disability, access to health care, and critiques of the modern health care system, and many other health-related topics. We are reposting Mandy’s interview with her Home Health Aide (also known as a Personal Care Attendants or Personal Care Aide), where the two of them discuss their journeys that brought them together. In the introduction, Mandy gives an overview of the exploitation HHAs experience and the real antagonisms between patients and health care workers.
The Florence Johnston Collective strongly believes that a struggle for human care must bridge the gap between patients and care workers. We appreciate how Mandy and Shyam are working through these questions. We are excited to share Mandy’s and Shyam’s story here on Flo Jo’s blog. Enjoy.
Despite being isolated in their every day work, home health aides (HHAs) find ways to communicate socially about work, agencies, cases, and skills. But instead of having a “water cooler” aides share stories at mandatory one-day in services, orientations, and also online! A friend of Florence Johnston Collective, known as “concerned,” has been an aide for over three years, and worked for many agencies, and has been keeping tabs on different place to share the information for aides looking for work. Originally shared on the indeed.com home health aide forum this list is meant to be a starting point to discuss how to take action. By compiling information and sharing it with other aides, we realize we are not alone! We also begin to see patterns and establish an analysis of how agencies treat clients and workers, and can start thinking of ways to struggle. Also, this online forum is an amazing first step in coming together with others in person, with the possibility of taking action. What if aides at these agencies refused to continue working? Stopped doing paperwork? Demands higher wages? Less cases? More paid training? If online activity is any indication, HHAs are creative, caring, angry, and ready to fight.
“Worst HHA Agencies in NYC” by “concerned”
1. Intergen Health-(My first agency that I worked for the longest. However, they are well known for having lousy, garbage cases & last I worked for them they didn’t have too many cases at all. I left due to lack of work & lousy caseload)
2. Barksdale Home Care-(Located in Pelham, NY. Had barely any cases in the Bronx though they claimed they did. I only worked one lame case for them in the Bronx that was only on Saturdays)
3. Amazing Home Care-(Also full of lousy, garbage cases. Why I left is self-explanatory)
With the recent hospital closures and cuts, many of us are wondering what is the future of health care in the U.S.? Many are arguing that the site for care is shifting from state-funded institutions that service all of society to a two-tiered system of health care: a top tier of private clinics and specialists who care for the rich, and bottom tier of low-paid workers who care for the poor in the home. Since most of us are workers, we can look forward to the latter.
The Department of Labor has noticed this trend, noting that home health aides (HHAs) are expected to have the fastest job growth of any sector in through 2020. However, just because there are more jobs in this sector does not mean those jobs will be filled, especially considering the horrendous working conditions HHAs find themselves in.
HHAs are among the most exploited health care workers. New York’s average HHA wage is only $10.21/hr, which is hardly enough to live on. On top of this, HHAs are expected to work long hours (10, 12, and 14 hour shifts or more!), and are not usually offered overtime or benefits. Furthermore, given the isolated, individualistic, and “private” nature of the work, many HHAs are sexually, physically, and emotionally assaulted by their clients.
Last week, President Obama extended minimum wage and overtime protections to HHAs, though these changes will not go into effect until 2015 (an unusual move that is supposed to give clients time to prepare for the shift). Despite when this official policy goes into effect, we know it will only be symbolic. These “protections” will either not be enforced, or will encourage the bosses to cut hours instead of paying overtime. When we are only getting paid $10/hr, we need to work as much as possible just to survive.
Similarly, HHAs in Connecticut have petitioned to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut. While this move may provide some relief in the short term, such as job security, in the long term it will do more harm than good, since HHAs will have to deal a new layer of management. Official union leaders historically police any rank-and-file struggles, smashing anything that the union deems “unreasonable,” “unattainable,” or as threatening the union itself.
This is why we cannot rely on Obama, the official unions, the bosses, or any other rulers or managers to better our working conditions. This is something we must do for ourselves. We must unite HHAs, PCAs, CNAs, RNs, case managers, and other workers who do “care” or “reproductive” work, in order to collectively demand a living wage, shorter shifts, and the ability to control and organize our working conditions ourselves. We must confront the clients who abuse us while uniting with those who support our struggles. Our working conditions are intimately connected to our clients’ access to services.
Florence Johnston Collective is a group that supports from-below struggles, worker- and community-led direct action, and cross-workplace solidarity. Email or call to get involved.