New York, NY – Confronted by vehement call-outs from home care workers and their supporters, the self-avowed progressive organization Chinese-American Planning Council’s (CPC) president Wayne Ho has recently paid lip service to ending the 24-hour workday, deflecting the agency’s responsibility in maintaining the extreme exploitation of its home attendants, most of whom are immigrants and women of color.
Earlier this week, dozens of home attendants signed a public letter condemning the violence that CPC has unleashed on their bodies, feelings, and human rights. The letter calls on foundations, organizations, and the general public to put pressure on the CPC to meet the workers’ demands: 1) pay back tens of millions of dollars in stolen wages; 2) end 24-hour workdays immediately; 3) publicly apologize to the traumatized workers.
But in Ho’s op-ed, the six-figure-earning CEO unabashedly twisted the facts to claim that “no single agency can achieve this change alone,” suggesting that agencies like his can’t help but maintain the grueling 24-hour workday tradition — unless they receive “ransoms” from the Medicaid budget.
How could CPC, the direct employer — who literally owns the time of hundreds of home care workers for as long as 24 hours a day — blatantly deny the fact that it has full power to end 24-hour shifts today? Plenty of precedents prove that individual workers are able to get 12-hour split shifts, but only if they fight hard enough, including by testifying in court that their rights to adequate sleep and meal breaks, as required by State law, have been violated.
For years, home attendants, disproportionately in New York City, have been forced to toil 24 hours a day — taking care of seniors and people of disabilities, for days on end. CPC’s Home Attendants Program, one of the most established home care agencies, has for years done its part to proliferate 24-hour workdays with only 13 hours of pay — a practice now rampant throughout the entire home care industry.
As a result, the home care workers have developed chronic insomnia, and some are now permanently disabled. Yu Xiao Huan, a former home attendant at CPC, showed her injured and deformed hands and fingers to a crowd of protestors and spectators! The home attendant further revealed that the violence extended to the people receiving her care, citing that when she complained to her boss about such inhumane work arrangement, she was told not to care about the patient at night — “If your patient falls, you call 911,” heartlessly said CPC.
As the largest Asian-American social service agency enters its 7th year of hiring costly attorneys to further delay and actively fight back the home care workers’ lawsuit of wage theft, its disingenuous call for ending the 24-hour workday appears rather as an insulting joke to home attendants like Yu.
By joining the call of home attendants, we are resolute in demanding that CPC deploy its abundant resources to pay back workers and immediately stop all 24-hour shifts today. CPC’s workers and patients — both of whom are predominantly Asian-American — deserve a sincere public apology from Ho — not a cunning deflection.
Yolanda Zhang is an organizer with Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association