By Dorys Tellechea
Home Care Worker
I migrated to the U.S. from Cuba nine years ago. I was in search of a better life and a job that I could be proud of. For the past eight years, I’ve worked as a home care worker, taking care of other people’s loved ones. This job is more than labor - it’s my calling. I find pride in the fact that I’m helping other people while building deep connections with them. During the pandemic, my work felt even more important. I became the only in-person connection for the people I cared for, and I knew they relied on me to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their lives.
While I find pride in my work and am aware of its importance, I still feel exploited by a flawed system that has no protections for care workers. Every day, there are fewer people who can dedicate themselves to this profession, even though there are many of us who want to care for others. But with a median wage of $11.73 an hour, the lack of affordable healthcare, our inability to join a union, and the absence of basic protections on the job make it difficult for people to enter the care workforce.
The entire care infrastructure is in shambles, which has led to dire worker shortages and too many families scrambling without access to the care their loved ones need. 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. In the decade spanning from 2018 to 2028, the in-home care industry will need to fill an estimated 4.7 million home care jobs. But it’s hard to attract that many workers to a job with a median wage of $11.73 an hour, a lack of affordable healthcare, no union, and an absence of basic protections on the job make it difficult for people to enter the care workforce.
But home care workers have united. As essential workers, we refused to accept anything less than living wages, basic protections, a union. We raised our voices, and our message resonated: President Biden and Congress heard us. As part of the Build Back Better Plan, they put forward a budget proposal that includes a significant investment in our nation’s care system.
In fact, Congressional Democrats recently approved a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which is the first step towards actually making President Biden’s Build Back Better plan a reality. If it becomes law, this plan promises to turn home care jobs into good, living-wage, union jobs, and ensure there are enough workers to care for all Americans who rely on them. The budget resolution also includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, people who are contributing and working here legally due to war or natural disaster in their home countries, and essential workers. This is important because one in three home care workers are immigrants. This legislation would not only invest in these workers, but it would allow many of them to fully participate in our society without fear of deportation.
Home care is also a workforce of nearly 90% women and majority women of color. Investing in our industry, both opening up more jobs and turning existing jobs into real careers that can support a family, would be a major investment in racial and gender justice.
Today, I’m calling on Congress to get these plans over the finish line and ensure that care workers are respected, protected, and paid. Investing in care isn’t a red or blue issue; it’s an American issue that people across the political spectrum support, and it’s also an economic necessity.
The budget resolution would undoubtedly help our industry attract more skilled, passionate workers to meet the rising demand for our services. It would also provide 3.2 million more seniors and people with disabilities with the services they depend on. The framework would also be life-changing for the immigrant women who do this work by creating a million new home care jobs and allowing 1.1 million family caregivers to re-enter the workforce.
When you lift up home care workers, you lift up all the people we care for. Elders and people with disabilities deserve to live with dignity and have the freedom to choose the services that work for them, and our elected leaders have the power and responsibility to make it happen.
We have an opportunity to reflect on the workers whose contributions make our daily lives run smoothly. But the hard truth is that home care workers need more than reflection or appreciation; we need action. Care makes all other work possible, and now it’s time for Congress to care for us.
1-855-963-2258 — Call your Representatives and demand they support Build Back Better and full funding for a once-in-a-generation investment in good union home care jobs!