HomeWork Solutions continues to track California's AB 889, coined the "Domestic Workers' Rights Bill" as it travels through the state legislature.
The bill, known in the Senate as SB 411 (The Home Care Services Act of 2011) passed a key hurdle and moved out of committee in the state's Senate last week. It now moves to the Senate Appropriations committee, prior to a full Senate vote.
Proponents of the bill emphasize fair pay, safe working conditions, and basic human rights protections for household workers. The bill would standardize employment rules for all types of household employment, including companionship care, and insure that all domestic workers are covered by overtime and workers compensation protection.
A key suppporter, the National Domestic Workers' Alliance, states that "this bill provides domestic workers with industry-specific protections to use kitchen facilities and cook their own food, and creates standards for sleep, for meal and rest breaks and overtime wages."
The bills opponents, including the California home care industry, domestic staffing agencies, and families employing caregivers, emphasize the dramatic increase in the cost of in-home care that the bill will cause. Additionally, as details about the bill emerge, some of the very workers the bill strives to protect are beginning to worry about unintended consequences that may cost the workers their jobs.
San Francisco's KGO-TV recently reported on the home care industry. Homecare workers - typically working with the elderly and disabled helping them remain in their homes - currently do not have overtime protections. Many live in 24 hours for several days a week, being available to assist with meals, bathing, bed rotations, transportation to/from medical appointments and the like. According to the report, on a 24/5 basis these workers average $1000 per week. Under the bill their wage would more than double. Many fear this will either price them out of their job (and force many elderly and disabled into nursing home facilities) or force them to work underground, without unemployment and workers compensation protections.
Nannies typically will work 8 - 10 hour days, caring for young children while parents are at work. Under the bill, these caregivers must be permitted to leave the premises for 30 minutes per shift for a meal break - either leaving the children unattended or forcing the families to find another adult to cover their break. The domestic staffing industry points out that this is impractical, and warns that families will reconsider childcare options, including child care centers, rather than face the $1000's of dollars in fines they could be subject to for violations.