Economy

Senate Republicans Introduce Bill To Block Home Health Workers From Making Minimum Wage

The Obama administration last year introduced a rule that would extend minimum wage protections to home health workers who, up to that point, had received no guarantee of a liveable wage or fair overtime pay. But Senate Republicans are attempting to block the rule from going into effect:

A group of Republican senators on Thursday introduced legislation aimed at blocking the Obama administration’s controversial efforts to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to 2 million in-home care providers through Department of Labor regulations.

Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., along with 11 other lawmakers, introduced a bill known as the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to preserve the current state of the law’s so-called companionship services exemption.

The bizarre name for the bill — the Companionship Exemption Protection Act — alludes to the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts two groups of workers: casual baby-sitters and those “who provide ‘companionship services’ to people with disabilities and the elderly,” which has come to mean home health workers. But, of course, home health care workers today do far more than provide “companionship.” As ThinkProgress has noted, “Home care workers today provide everything from help with eating and dressing to monitoring blood pressure and vital signs.”

Employment in the home health industry is expected to expand 69 percent by 2020, adding 1.3 million positions. And if the Republicans have their way, it will remain legal to pay those workers below a minimum wage that already doesn’t get a family above the poverty line.