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The Ongoing Scandal of Home Health Aides Living in Poverty

August 6, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Americare home health aides say the company doesn't care about its employees.
Americare home health aides say the company doesn’t care about its employees.

Brooklyn, NY – The industry-wide scandal of home health aides being unable to earn a decent  living while caring for other people’s frail and elderly loved ones was played out on the streets of Brooklyn this week, as roughly 60 Americare Home Health Agency workers rallied outside the company’s Kings Highway headquarters demanding a fair contract. 

“We take care of people for a living, but Americare really doesn’t care about us,” home health aide Carol High told LaborPress. 

After 15 years as an Americare employee, the 55-year-old Crown Heights mother of four still earns just $10-an-hour. Not much more than the roughly $7-an-hour High earned when she first started working for Americare back in 1999. Eight to twelve-hour days throughout the week are the norm, but High said she must also work an additional 12 hours on weekends just to scrape by. 

“Oh, my god — It’s horrible,” High said. “We are trying so hard to make a living. We take care of people,  but our agency doesn’t take care of us.”

Americare is one of the largest home health care agencies in New York State, employing some 3,000 home health aides throughout the five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster counties in the Hudson Valley.

Employees provide a gamut of vital human services for their infirm clientele — everything from bathing and feeding to shopping and cleaning. 

Workers rallying outside Americare’s Kings Highway headquarters this week have been working for months without a contract. 

Idania Baldoquin, union representative for UFCW Local 2013, said that the company that touts its unique “compassion” has, so far, been dragging its feet in the negotiating process. 

“These people deserve a contract now,” Baldoquin said. “They deserve fair treatment and respect.”

Fair treatment and respect, however, are hard to come by for those who have dedicated their lives to caring for some of the most vulnerable members of society. 

In New Jersey, caregivers at Alaris Health have spent the summer of 2016 trying to win fair wages and benefits from a company that has raked in more than $170 million in profit between 2010 and 2014.  

In New York State, there are in excess of 162,000 home health aides struggling to make a living on an annual median salary of $23,370. 

UFCW Local 2013 says Americare is dragging its feet in contract negotiations.
UFCW Local 2013 says Americare is dragging its feet in contract negotiations.

High argues, in part, that Americare can afford to pay home health aides more because Medicaid reimbursements to the company translate into $30-an-hour per aide. 

“We are out there making the company money, but they are  not paying us enough,” High said.

Two of High’s four children joined her on the picket line outside Americare’s headquarters this week.  

“My kids grew up knowing me working for Americare,” High said. “I’m dedicated to what I do because I care about people. What we’re asking for are just livable wages so we can take care of our bills and pay our rent.”

Americare home health aides also took to the streets outside the company's Kings Highway headquarters in 2013.  

Americare has yet to respond to requests for comment. 

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