Supreme Court Case Could Put Home Care for Seniors at Risk

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Supreme Court Case Could Put Home Care for Seniors at Risk
Flood…Explosion…Tidal wave. Whatever metaphor you use to describe our nation’s demographics, the facts are the same: the number of elderly Americans is rising rapidly.
By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65. The number of senior citizens will more than double over the next forty years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As the massive Baby Boom generation ages, one of the biggest challenges we face is how to ensure they will get the care they need to live healthy at home instead of in an institution.
In many parts of the country, it is difficult to find and keep the home care assistants whose work allows seniors and people with disabilities to live independently at home. Poverty wages, a lack of basic worker benefits, and lack of training all conspire to keep turnover of home care workers high and make recruitment and retention difficult.
California has taken action to build a stable home care workforce. Home care workers have joined together in a union, and have bargained with the state to make major improvements.
Through a united voice, home care workers have been able to bring dignity to the vital work they do and raise awareness of their role in meeting the care demands of our growing senior population. Although they remain low-wage workers, gains have been made in increasing wages and providing workers with healthcare benefits. These achievements have been a significant step in lowering turnover and attracting future workers.
Unfortunately, an upcoming U.S.Supreme Court case could make it more difficult to recruit and retain home care workers, putting quality home care at risk just when more people will need it most.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on January 21, 2014, in Harris v. Quinn, a case brought by the National Right to Work Committee, an extreme right-wing think tank. This case threatens home care workers’ right to collective bargaining with states to improve working conditions.
Collective bargaining helps stabilize the home care workforce. By improving working conditions, benefits, and training, collective bargaining helps reduce disruptive turnover for consumers and increases the supply of workers at a time when demand for this service continues to escalate.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the National Right to Work Committee in Harris v. Quinn, the ruling would put at risk the ability of seniors and people with disabilities to get the reliable care they need to stay at home.
Unlike natural disasters, we know that the demographic disaster is coming. As a nation we need to take steps now to prepare for tens of millions of elderly Americans who will need care. Collective bargaining by home care workers has been a success for people who depend on home care services and the people who deliver that care here in California and other states. Let’s not move backwards. The Justices of the Supreme Court should follow precedent and affirm the ruling of the lower courts dismissing this case.
The Congress of California Seniors is a statewide organization providing advocacy and services since 1977.

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Congress of California Seniors
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