Home care workers railed Tuesday to end the 24-hour workday before the City Council heard public testimony.
Immediately following Labor Day, those who have been pushing to end what they cite as a cruel and remorseless practice gathered on the steps of City Hall to say enough is enough. Brandishing signs on Sept. 6 that saw severe rainfall, it was clear–after years of fighting–the group swelled with hope for the future for the first time.
Joined by Councilmember Christopher Marte and Assemblymember Ron Kim, workers alleged tyrannical levels of workplace misconduct that plague the industry and have led to dangerous conditions for both the workers and the patients they serve.
“I started as a home attendant in 2016. I worked 24-hour workdays for three years, three days per week. Meaning continuously working for 72 hours. My patient is a couple. In the day I had to look after my patients the whole time to prevent them from falling down. I had to give them all my attention and at night I had to turn the bodies of the patients every two hours and change their diapers and had to carry them to the bathroom. It’s impossible for me to have five hours of sleep. Now I have insomnia. I had to take pills in order to sleep,” homecare worker Xin Li said.
Speakers also alleged that the brutal practices have been able to continue since it impacts primarily immigrant women of color, some who speak little English and are forced to work these extensive shifts for days at a time. If passed, the proposed bill No More 24 Act or Intro 175 would put an end to the countless work hours.
“Look at this. It’s pouring rain outside, but everyone here came up to stand up for what’s right. They came here because they’re demanding justice and not just for themselves, but for their colleagues who couldn’t make it here today because they’re on a 24-hour shift,” Councilmember Marte said. “Today we’ll be hearing an introduction to Intro 175 to do away with the 24-hour workday and to split it into 12 hour shifts because we believe 12-hour care is needed. But we think the 24-hour shift is a disgusting, racist practice that’s been abusing women of color for far too long.”
Although the bill would not be voted on yet, the council heard testimony after harrowing testimony from worker after worker, a vital step in indicating the importance of the bill. Another issue is the lack of pay, something Intro 175 also looks to tackle. The bill would prevent home care agencies from illegally paying workers only 13 hours for each 24-hour shift.
“When I see immigrant women workers, I see my mom,” Assemblymember Kim said. “This is the moment where we make things right.”