New York City’s ‘No More Than 24’ Home Health Assistance Bill Passes Chapter

Bill entitled no more 24 Currently under discussion by New York City Council members, which would ostensibly end a brutal policy that allows home care agencies to force their employees to work 24-hour consecutive shifts and pay them for only 13 hours.

Home Health Aides protest in New York City in September (Source: Facebook Chinese Staff & Workers Association) [Photo]

Home care aides are caregivers who provide vital, intimate assistance to elderly and disabled patients in their home residencies. This includes helping patients keep clean, decorate, shop for groceries, clean the patient’s home, cook and feed them. Home health aides also coordinate with other health care professionals and help patients take their medications, check vital signs, and schedule doctor visits. Critical service allows many vulnerable patients to stay at home and maintain their independence.

Under the current setting approved by the New York State Department of Labor, home health aides are compensated for 13 hours of work 24 hours a day. This is justified by arguing that assistants can sleep and eat in their patients’ homes, and therefore should not be paid for that time. State law mandates eight unpaid hours for sleep and three hours for meals. Needless to say, aides are also not paid for the long hours they spend on public transportation to and from patients’ homes.

The fact that this policy has been in place for so long is an indictment of the Democratic Party, which has long controlled most political institutions at the local and state levels. It is also an indictment of the union apparatus, particularly of the local 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which among its members includes approximately 130,000 home health aides, mostly made up of female migrant and minority workers.

She described the conditions these workers faced while testifying at the September 6 hearing on the bill. Shen Li, a home health aide, said, “I started working as a housemaid in 2016. I worked 24 hours a day for three years, three days a week. Meaning 72 hours of continuous work. My patients are a married couple. On that day, I had to I take care of my patients all the time to keep them from falling. I had to give them all my attention and at night I had to turn patients’ bodies every two hours and change their diapers and had to take them to the bathroom. It’s impossible to sleep five hours. Now I have insomnia. I had to take pills to sleep” .

The no more 24 The bill, proposed by new council member Christopher Mart, would limit the work day for home care aides to 12 hours a day and 50 hours a week. But even this minor reform, which would do little to end the brutal exploitation of these workers – was vehemently opposed by the 1199 SEIU.

The union opposed the abolition of the 24-hour shift system. At the city council hearing, the union organized a counter march, albeit a much smaller one, in which participants chanted “Kill the bill!”

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