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US: Represent an Important Effort Toward Fulfilling Human Rights Commitments
Letter by William Gomes Salem-News.com
Salem-News.com Eye on the World report.
U.S. Dept of Labor
(HONG KONG) - The exclusion of workers who care for the elderly and disabled, from basic labor protections, undermines the fulfillment of core human rights obligations of the United States, including obligations related to eliminating gender and racial discrimination. Home care workers provide essential services to people with disabilities and a growing population of aging individuals who require assistance with their basic needs. Many live at poverty level, while their jobs impose significant physical demands, entail tasks of the most intimate nature, and require odd hours and the endurance of periods of considerable stress.
The Department of Labor’s move to narrow the companionship exemption and ensure basic minimum wage and overtime protections for hundreds of thousands of caregiving services employees who help people with disabilities and the elderly in their homes, is a good move.
Our goal with Eye on the World is to illustrate and highlight politically oriented problems and tragedies that traditional media channels don't have time or interest in covering.
The world has its own set of laws that were agreed upon by the ruling nations in 1948, and many people are not aware of this simple fact. At the root of the concept of world citizenry itself, is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an overriding and supreme law that ensures many essential human rights that governments today fail to observe. Also central to any hope of human success, is the understanding of the human hierarchy of needs, as defined by Abraham Maslow- more information on this at the conclusion of this entry. We must use the Internet as a tool of justice at every junction, and we need to assist all human beings, everywhere, and not allow cultural, racial or religious preferences as determiners.
In this letter to Mary Ziegler, Director, Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation with the US Department of Labor in Washington, DC, William Gomes recommends that the Department of Labor move forward with changes outlined in the notice of proposed rulemaking. Together they represent an important effort toward fulfilling US human rights commitments, an investment in the future of providers and recipients of caregiving services, and a long-overdue step to correct discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.
Director, Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation
US Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Ms. Ziegler,
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Department of Labor’s notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to domestic service. I welcome the Department’s move to narrow the companionship exemption and ensure that basic minimum wage and overtime protections apply to the hundreds of thousands of workers whom agencies employ to provide caregiving services to people with disabilities and to the elderly in their homes. I also welcome the proposed rule’s provision for more stringent record-keeping requirements to ensure that live-in domestic workers are properly compensated for the hours they work.
Home care workers provide essential services to people with disabilities and to the growing population of aging individuals who require assistance with their basic needs. Their jobs impose significant physical demands, entail tasks of the most intimate nature, and require odd hours and the endurance of periods of considerable stress. Despite the exertion, skill, and commitment they bring to their work, full-time home care providers, many of whom are heads of households, bring home earnings that may not keep their families from poverty.[i] In addition, home care workers contend with limited job-related benefits, forcing some to rely on means-tested government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, and leaving almost all without retirement plans. The inequity that workers who care for others’ family members often find themselves unable to care for their own family is indeed startling. The low wages of workers support a $70 billion industry in which for-profit home care businesses claim 30 to 40 percent of the proceeds.[ii]
The exclusion of this workforce from basic labor protections undermines the fulfillment of core human rights obligations of the United States, including obligations related to eliminating gender and racial discrimination. As the notice of proposed rulemaking recognizes, the home caregiving workforce is predominantly female and disproportionately made up of immigrant women and women of color.[iii] Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the US ratified in 1994, the government is obligated to undertake to guarantee without discrimination everyone’s rights to work, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to just and favorable remuneration.[iv] In reviewing US compliance with the treaty, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the “Committee”) observed that “workers belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, in particular women and undocumented migrant workers, continue to face discriminatory treatment and abuse in the workplace, and to be disproportionately represented in occupations characterized by long working hours, low wages, and unsafe or dangerous conditions of work.”[v]
The Committee commented specifically on the US Supreme Court decision in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke (2007), which found the regulatory exclusion of home care workers from FLSA protections to be permissible under the statute. The Committee expressed concern that the decision, along with two other labor-related rulings, had “further eroded the ability of workers belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities to obtain legal protection and redress in cases of discriminatory treatment at the workplace, unpaid or withheld wages, or work-related injury or illnesses (arts. 5 (e) (i) and 6).”[vi] I believe that the proposed rule will go far towards expanding the limited access to redress that the Committee feared was leaving workers exposed to abuse.
By promoting the recruitment and retention of a qualified caregiving workforce, the change will also prepare the US to comply with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is now awaiting Senate ratification following President Obama’s signing of the treaty in July 2009. The treaty recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and the government’s obligation to ensure they “have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community.”[vii] As the population requiring access to home caregiving is expected to rise, the home care industry will need to add 800,000 new workers by 2018 to meet the demand [viii] The availability of those workers will depend on the industry providing reasonable wages and conditions of work.
These changes are also timely as they come at a historic moment of global recognition of the rights of domestic workers. Last June, the governments, trade unions, and employers’ organizations that make up the International Labor Organization (ILO) overwhelmingly voted to adopt the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The US played a leading role in pushing for the convention, which establishes the first global labor standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Although the US has yet to ratify the new treaty, it is fitting that the administration is now seeking to ensure that basic labor protections apply to this important workforce within the US.
I recommend the Department of Labor move forward with the changes outlined in the notice of proposed rulemaking. Together they represent an important effort toward fulfilling US human rights commitments, an investment in the future of providers and recipients of caregiving services, and a long-overdue step to correct discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.
William Nicholas Gomes
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
As children we are educated in right and wrong, we are told how to conduct ourselves; we learn both expectations and limitations, and from that point we go forth with these tools, and our individual personalities, and fail or succeed accordingly.
In school we quickly understand that without paper, there is no place to write. Once we have paper, a pen or pencil is required to move to the next point. There is a great analogy that exists between this simple concept of paper and pen, and what we know today as Maslow's hierarchy of needs- the theory in psychology proposed in Abraham Maslow's 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.
He demonstrated how without the correct necessities, a person can do little good for themselves, and has none to offer for others. However when people are housed and have clothing, heat, food, health and security, anything is possible. However if just one of these dynamics is removed from the mix, the chance for success can be adversely affected.
Wikipedia describes Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a pyramid consisting of five levels:
The lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose.
The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer be met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.
For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.
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Salem-News.com Writer William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.
He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency Asianews.it from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.
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