NEW YORK (PIX11) – After years of working 24-hour shifts and claims of not getting paid for all the time put in, home care workers in New York City are still putting up a fight. They protested outside 1199SEIU, their union headquarters in Midtown.
“For over a decade they’ve been paying workers only 13 hours for these 24-hour shifts,” Kathy Lu, an organizer and advocate, said.
According to state policy, a worker can be paid for just the 13 hours if they get to rest and eat during the shift, but the workers claim that is rarely ever the case.
“Workers don’t get to sleep at night because their patients truly need 24-hour care,” Lu added.
Earlier this year 1199SEIU announced a mandatory arbitrated settlement with 42 agencies. The outcome was $32.5 million in recovered wages, but they say that doesn’t make a dent in their backpay with estimates up to $6 billion.
They calculate that the settlement only equates to three minutes of the 11 hours in alleged stolen wages, but they want an exact amount before agreeing to anything.
“If I sign this settlement form and release my employer from a decade of wage theft – all the liability – how many hours and minutes will I get per 24 hour shift?” Lu asked. “1199 hasn’t answered them at all and it’s been months.”
Many of the workers are immigrant women who say they’ve become patients themselves after the grueling shifts.
Hongwu Chen is from China and worked as a home care worker for five years.
“We [had] to hold the patient all the time, many times,” Chen recalled. “Now I have a lot of [injuries in] my lower back pain, my spine. I have insomnia.”
Luz Estrella is from the Dominican Republic and says she developed a hernia from consistently carrying the patient to and from the bathroom.
At one point protestors attempted to enter the building, but police prevented them from doing so. They want to speak with union president George Gresham to get clear answers on how much money they’ll receive and how many hours in wage theft it compensates for.
The protestors are also asking for support on a New York City Council bill called the No More 24 Act which would put an end to the 24-hour shifts and cap them at 12 hours.
The union pushed back in a statement.
“For the past several months, organizers with the ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ (AIW) campaign have levied patently false and misleading accusations against 1199SEIU and greatly misstated the facts surrounding the Union’s position on 24-hour shifts and the nearly $40 million arbitration award secured for our members,” a spokesperson said.