Supreme Court Undermines Homecare Workers

As the U.S. population ages, homecare workers, predominately women of color and immigrant, will be increasingly in demand for around-the-clock service.

In the latest attack against working people, the Supreme Court argued five to four that "a home is not a union workplace," thus perpetuating the myth that domestic work is not "real work" and domestic workers are undeserving of the protections guaranteed to workers in other industries. This ruling shifts the onus of job security and protections, once again, on to an individual worker.

This decision lobbied by a right-wing group called the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) is an affront to homecare workers. Although most work independently, homecare workers are largely paid by the government for service in patients' homes.

Over the past decade, domestic workers have made tremendous strides by building strong community-based organizations and worker centers that are critical support systems. When domestic workers have come together and organized, they have won higher wages, better working conditions, dignity in the workplace, paid time off, quality training, more reasonable hours, and increased job security. Organizations have also banded together to build citywide and national movements, from the ground up.

But without a groundswell of united workers, employers, and allies, the sector is prone to exploitation, labor violations, and in some cases, trafficking. We are disappointed in the court's decision. But we will continue to fight.

In the same week as this decision, our domestic worker sisters won the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in Massachusetts. This is the fourth state bill in four years to provide clear guidelines for employers to ensure respect and dignity in the workplace. We have seen the tremendous strength of our community, and we know that even with this new hurdle, change will come if domestic workers continue to organize and demand justice.

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Leah Obias is the campaigns coordinator and case manager of Damayan, a migrant workers association for Filipino migrant workers in New York and New Jersey. Damayan is one of the lead organizations of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.