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Underpaid and Underrepresented Homecare Workers Holding Their First Summit in St. Louis

First Posted: Oct 03, 2014 08:52 AM EDT

Hundreds of home-care workers from Washington, California and New York will be in St. Louis for the first-ever Home Care Workers Rising Summit, which will partner with labor unions, on Monday, Oct. 6.

Caring Across Generations, the organizers of the summit say the home-care workers are mostly invisible as a workforce and yet total 3 million people - 99 percent are women, and more than half are women of color. Operating alone, they earn a median salary of $9.38 an hour for an annual income of $17,000.

During the summit, home-care workers will learn about building solidarity, organizing techniques, building coalitions to address 21st Century home-care challenges, and ways to strengthen the movement for quality care, quality jobs and fair benefits.

According to organizers, Caring Across Generations, every eight seconds an American turns 65 opening up the possibility of needing a home-care worker.  By 2035, there will be 11.5 million Americans over the age of 85, more than double today's 5 million and the need for home-care workers even greater.

The summit is the brainchild of Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations, who was just given a MacArthur Genius Award for her work with domestic workers.

Poo has been organizing domestic workers for 16 years and was the driving force behind the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights being signed into law in August 2010. She also spearheaded passage of the California Bill of Rights, which goes into effect this year. Connecticut and Illinois have campaigns underway, and Massachusetts is working towards a similar bill.

"Care workers earn, on average, less than $10 per hour. They rarely receive paid vacation or sick days. Most workers are subject to termination without notice or severance pay; many without citizenship status fear they can do nothing to improve their situations. When individual workers try to raise their wages or improve their conditions with their employers, employers can simply hire another worker," Ai-jen Poo said in The Guardian. "Care work, historically associated with the unpaid work of homemakers or the poorly paid work of women of color and immigrant women, remains undervalued and virtually invisible to public consciousness."

Latin Post will publish an interview with Ai-jen Poo on Friday.

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