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Home Health Care Workers Rally For Overtime Wages

Home health care workers only get paid for their regular workday, but they often work longer hours. Workers rallied in Downtown LA Thursday to demand overtime from Gov. Brown. ATVN’s Alexa Liacko has the story.

Overtime pay is what these home health care workers say they need and deserve from the government. Marilyn Moreno works two jobs to support her family but also takes care of her 25-year-old daughter Jessica, who has cerebral palsy.

"It’s a challenge everyday," Moreno said. "It’s a challenge because not only am I an advocate to my daughter, I am her arms, legs, her ears and I speak for her," she said.

Moreno says if she and her two other children didn’t care for her daughter, Jessica would be taken in by the state. "There is no way they’ll take better care of her than me—I’m her mother," Moreno said.

Mary Paul is another caregiver. She gave up her job to take care of her 81-year-old grandmother with dementia. She says she has to work seven days a week.

“We gave up everything," Paul said. "You know, you give up everything to care for a person. It makes it absolutely impossible to do things for your loved ones when you’re not even making minimum wage.”

The U.S. Department of Labor permitted states to pay for overtime, but a federal judge blocked the action, leaving workers with no solution in the meantime.

"A caregiver, that’s their dedication, they spend their lives taking care of people, should not be living in poverty, and they should not have to fight for the same economic rights as everyone else," said Kimberly Evon, the secretary treasurer of the United Long Term Care Workers Union.

The workers stayed outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s office until Thursday evening when they rallied again. They say he’s the one who can give them what they want.

So the money has been set aside and is spendable by the state, and nothing that the feds said says the state can’t expand overtime pay," said Prof. Gregory Stevens of the USC Keck School of Medicine.  "So I think it’s reasonable on behalf of the unions to go ahead and request that the state go forward with this. But you can understand the state’s hesitation if they aren’t being required to do this."

However, workers say it’s about more than that. "We’re standing for justice for human beings and care for human beings—that they can go forth and live the life they should," said Paul.

When a reporter asked Gov. Brown about this, he responded by saying the overtime is not being implemented, "Because the federal court said that it wasn’t appropriate under federal law," Brown said. And even though there was technically money set aside, Brown said,  "it was very closely tied in with the federal regs. And when the federal regulations were temporarily halted we followed a similar course."

An what if the federal government changed course, would the state follow suit? To that Brown said, "Well, we’re following this legal course and we have many issues with the Service Employees International Union that cover many topics and there will be even new topics over the next three or four years. And we’re going to be talking with them in a very open hearted way, but never to offend my deep frugality when it comes to state spending."

Workers say they will not rest until they get the pay they have earned. 

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