Administration Helps Home Care Workers, Should Help Low-Wage Contractors

Dave Johnson

This week the Obama administration’s Department of Labor issued new rules extending minimum wage and overtime protection (beginning in 2015) to home care workers. These workers had been classified as the same as babysitters.

This is a big change for almost 2 million workers. Calling this “a victory on multiple fronts,” In These Times says,

… this is more than just a labor issue—the intersection of gender, race and class makes it a victory on multiple fronts. Ninety-two percent of home care workers are women, more than half are people of color, and many are low-income and rely on government assistance like food stamps and Medicaid. Good news is hard to come by in labor reporting, so enjoy this one!

Yes, let’s definitely celebrate!

So What Have You Done For Working People Lately?

There’s something else the administration can do. Our government used to serve as an employment model, paying good wages and providing benefits. But because of privatization, the US government is now the single largest employer of low-wage workers. The US government employs more low-wage workers than even Walmart. This supposedly “saves money” but really pays huge CEO salaries. And these workers then have to come to the government for help with food, housing, medical care, etc. because they are paid at poverty level.

Demos, in Underwriting Bad Jobs explains the problem,

What most Americans don’t know is that many of the workers keeping our nation humming are paid low wages, earning barely enough to afford essentials like food, health care, utilities and rent. Through federal contracts and other funding, our tax dollars are fueling the low-wage economy and exacerbating inequality. …

We find that nearly two million private sector employees working on behalf of America earn wages too low to support a family, making $12 or less per hour. This is more than the number of low-wage workers at Walmart and McDonalds combined.

President Obama could issue an executive order requiring that these workers be paid fairly.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) issued a report, Taking the Low Road: How the Federal Government Promotes Poverty-Wage Jobs Through its Contracting Practices, saying “Washington does not keep an official tally of the number of privately contracted workers who help provide public services, but researchers estimate there are about two million.” The extensive (click through) report continues, “To help reverse the trend toward an ever-widening income gap, we believe the federal government must renew its historic commitment to pursuing model policies that can influence and improve conditions in the public and private sectors. Making all federally contracted jobs good jobs is the place to start.”

Good Jobs Nation wants you to click here to sign this petition that says:

President Obama –

Thousands of people work for you through private contractors, and the fact is that many are struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage or even less.

Mr. President, these companies are paying their CEOs millions each year. Please make sure that companies hired to serve the American people do right by them — make sure that federal contractors pay a living wage and respect workers’ rights to join together and have a voice on the job.

You can also sign this petition asking President Obama to “issue an executive order guaranteeing that federal contractors pay living wages and respect workers’ rights.”

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