Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Supreme Court vs. Boomers and Progress

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Supreme Court vs. Boomers and Progress

Article excerpt

On its surface, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Harris v. Quinn was about unions. But it's actually about all of us, and the future we want for our country, particularly in light of the baby boom generation reaching retirement age.

Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65 - that's one person every eight seconds. By the time you finish reading this piece, a dozen more people will have turned 65. The baby boom generation is catalyzing an unprecedented "elder boom" in America. Nine out of 10 would prefer to age at home and in their communities instead of nursing homes, a profound shift that relies upon the work of paid caregivers. As more and more elders and families seek the support they need, home care work has become the fastest growing occupation in the nation.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Harris v. Quinn made it more difficult for home care workers to pool their resources and have a strong voice at work. The vast majority of home care workers are women with families of their own - children and aging loved ones. Because the work that happens inside our homes has long been undervalued, and because this workforce has been excluded from basic protections for decades, home care workers are forced to live and work in poverty.

The physically strenuous and emotionally complex work of caregivers deserves to be fairly compensated. In the 1980s a group of African-American women home care workers in Chicago, many of whom migrated from the Southern states of Mississippi and Georgia, decided to voluntarily contribute $5 per month in order to build an organization that would improve their situation. The resulting union enabled them to raise their wages from $1 per hour to $12 per hour, going up to $13 in December, with health insurance and paid training. It's not everything they deserve, but it is progress. …

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