Women and Leadership Conference

THE INEQUITIES IN THE HOME CARE SYSTEM AND HOW WE CAN HELP

CCE: Tema Summerfield 

The Women and Leadership class gathered at Blithewood on Friday afternoon to engage in a progressive conversation about the realities of being a homecare worker in today’s day, and how their contributions impact the communities around us. The conference was also accompanied by the Bard Microcollege in Holyoke, Massachusetts: a tuition-free college for women, trans and nonbinary students, whose education has been interrupted by parenting, financial challenges, and other family responsibilities. 

The guest speaker, Ilana Berger from the New York Caring Majority campaign, led the conversation by asking us to pair up with an unfamiliar face in the room and share our “care story.” I paired up with a student named Joanita. She told me about her story as a single mother of 7 who had to drop out of her biotechnology program to provide full-time care for her family. She explained to me how crucial it is for her to take time out of the day to focus on her well-being at the same time. 

Then, Berger goes on to inform the group about the people who do these acts of kindness for a living, and how they are decreasing in the work field due to the severities of having to depend on an average living wage of $13 an hour. In the United States, 86% of home care workers are women and 65% are POC. As you can predict, the financial impact on these two demographics during the peak of the pandemic was devastating. This has caused many of the workers to go on strike or quit. At the same time, now more than ever, home care workers are in high demand as the mortality rates in the elderly population increase. 

You might be asking yourself, Why are home care workers not being taken seriously in the work field? Berger describes how this occupation has always been deemed as “women’s work” and therefore it is not productive for the economy. This dates back to the abolition era. During slavery, Black women were domestic homecare workers for white families, for free. When slavery was finally abolished in all 50 states, Black and Brown women took on similar jobs; child care, laundry worker, indentured servant. To escape the hostile environment of living in a white person’s house, many domestic workers migrated up north so they could have the right to their own home to come back to at the end of the day. Laws were passed in the 1930s exempting Black and Brown domestic workers from labor protections. 

In order to combat the corrupt systems within the home care industry, everyone needs to be involved. Berger continued, 

 “Whoever says that they are a self made billionaire is full of lies because everything we achieve is in how we support each other.” 

You can be a part of this movement by signing a petition to Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly speaker Heastie demanding that home care workers wages increase to 150% of the highest minimum wage in every part of New York. SIGN HERE

Learn more about the home care crisis in NY and how New York Caring Majority campaign is fighting against it: LEARN  MORE

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