HARRISBURGH PA – Home health care workers say they need a raise, but they are threatened with a pay cut if a major health care provider gets its way. A coalition of home care workers and patients told their stories at a powerful press conference at the State Capitol building here to protest the actions of Bayada Nurses Inc., a New Jersey based company.
As the press conference went on, the company was in the process of appealing a state labor law to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the same building. Bayada argued that it should not be subject to state minimum wage and overtime laws in dealing with its employees because, it claimed, the law exempts private residents who hire others to work in their homes. Bayada sought the exemption based on its argument that the home care workers were employed jointly by the company and by its clients, the patients. According to the Associated Press, the company had sued the Pennsylvania State Labor Department in its attempt to avoid the regulation which has been on the books for 32 years.
The press conference featured remarks by both patients and home care workers. The patients included some in wheel chairs, others with severe disabilities and those who had their own stories to tell. Linda Murphy said that due to company negligence, her mother had passed away at home and had not been found for three days.
Health care worker Bernice Brown told the group that she had been fired for insubordination when she resisted company efforts to change her status from an employee to an independent contractor, which would relieve the employer from any obligation to pay her benefits and a decent wage. The rally was organized by a coalition of patient advocates and SEIU.