Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Coal Miners' Daughters

254 Coal Miners’ Daughters

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the single most idiotic Supreme Court decision in the lifetime of anyone reading or hearing this.

The Supremes rule that home care workers aren’t allowed to make overtime. Astounding.

The hardest working people in medicine, and the lowest paid, most of them immigrants, most of them impoverished, all of them trained and licensed. These are today’s coal miners.

Many work two and three shifts or partial shifts in a day. Sometimes they get carfare out of it in addition to their six or seven bucks an hour. If they do, it’s taxable income. Well, probably not really taxable because most of these women make so little money they don’t need to pay taxes.

So, now the Supremes rule that the normal time-and-a-half laws don’t apply. And who’s going to fight that? Who can?

This is a tough job. Coal mine tough. They’re dealing with aged, infirm people unable to care for themselves. That means people with no sanitary habits to speak of. These women are the first line of medical defense. But many of them are more housekeeper than nurse. And housekeepers get better money – and better hours.

How would you like to work from, say 7 in the morning until 10, then have to go home and come back at 3 or four and work another three hours?

How would you like to spend your days wiping the rear ends of a bunch of people either so out of it that they can’t do it for themselves or so nasty that they treat you like an intruder?

And the industry says “oh, we can’t pay overtime. It would bankrupt us.” And Medicare says the same. And Medicaid.

Awhile back, Congress (a Republican Congress) expanded the Fair Labor Standards act and the power of the Department of Labor to enforce it. At least that’s what the act was said to say. What it really did was gut the act and exempted one million people (yes, there are one million home health care workers) from its reach.

When the Act was first Acted, it covered this category. Now, no.

To be fair, not every home health aid and home attendant is denied overtime. Some are unionized (including those who work for the City of New York.) And those contracts usually specify things like time and a half for OT and short turnaround (that’s extra money if you return to work without more than a 12 hour break.) But that’s for relatively few. The overwhelming majority get straight time, no holidays, no vacations, no lunch breaks, no nuthin’.

The Labor Department sniffs that the decision is well within its discretion.

Compassionate conservatism in action.

The Supremes’ decision was unanimous. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted as saying “Isn’t it odd…” that the goal was to expand not contract coverage and that’s what they’re doing?

Yes, Ruthie. It IS odd. So why did you vote to go along?

Ever been in a coal mine?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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