The following is a transcript of the video above, from our virtual magazine roundtable, “Owning Our Economy, Owning Our Future.”
Adria Powell: What’s particularly striking for me is being part of Cooperative Home Care and having this dual identity of both a home care agency and a worker-owned cooperative. There was much appreciation and accolades in the worker co-op community around the writing in the magazine, and virtually silence on the home care side. And in that vein, and I think it comes from living in a sort of traditionally fractured system. It demonstrates the invisibility of the recognition that home care doesn’t have to be this traditionally extractive kind of business, that there is another way, and that the workforce needs to be recognized. And that’s not necessarily inherent in our sector. It’s really striking to me that I haven’t had more feedback, although it shouldn’t be a surprise—because on the home care side, much of the way that the system operates isn’t challenged by sort of traditional home care providers and healthcare organizations.
I don’t say that lightly. I can think about an experience when the Fair Labor Standards Act was being brought forth for home care workers, and being at an association meeting for home care where there were tons of providers. We found out that the case that was being brought forth to really launch those Fair Labor Standards Acts, under a woman named Evelyn Koch—she was the home care worker who had brought the suit, saying that she had worked overtime without overtime protections, she wasn’t paid overtime. The case was dismissed, and the room erupted. Providers were thrilled because it would have meant paying people a fairer wage. I just remember feeling so alone in that space, because we were the exact opposite of that. From the start of Cooperative Home Care, we paid overtime, or time and a half of base wage. It just felt like, wow, we’re really different, and we have to figure out how to shift this paradigm. But it’s really difficult when you’re but one player.