Domestic workers worry about AB 889

July 1, 2011 7:47:16 PM PDT
A bill that would expand the rights and protections of domestic workers in California is coming under fire, ironically from some of the workers themselves.

Next week, California lawmakers will consider a bill that would guarantee overtime pay, meal and rest breaks and paid vacation for in-home care givers. But some workers worry, Assembly Bill 889 could cost them their jobs.

"I live here five days," said Dolma Tsering.

Tsering works 24 hours a day, five days a week caring for an elderly man with dementia in his Berkeley home. His care is paid for by his family. Tsering does not get paid overtime per se, but she and others who work similar shifts through an agency called Senior Helpers make more than $200 per day. With overtime pay, that salary would more than double, which Tsering says would force her client into a nursing home.

"I'm going to lose my job. Nobody can afford that much money," said Tsering.

"What it will do to the clients is it will raise the cost of their care so high, it's not going to be affordable," said Susan Grant from Senior Helpers. "The lower income will have IHHS there. The very, very wealthy will have their own employees and they don't need anybody like us. We take care of the middle class."

Assm. Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is one of AB 889's co-sponsors.

Supporters include the Oakland-based California Domestic Workers Coalition and a group called Hand In Hand.

"We actually believe that this bill actually improves the quality of care for seniors and people with disabilities as well as employers more generally and we don't think it significantly affects affordability," said Steph St. Clair from Hand in Hand.

AB 889 has already passed the full assembly. A state senate committee is expected to take it up next week.


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