An Open Letter to California Senators


Sometimes I think that as we get older, our patience for blind, partisan politics diminishes.  I know it is certainly true in my case.  The French have a saying that, when you are younger, if you do not vote more to the left, you do not have a heart; when you are older, if you do not vote more to the right, you do not have a brain.  In my case, I have done a bit of both, at all ages.  🙂

In California, right now, in the legislature, it is all about partisanship, and, unfortunately, two measures that reflect that will seriously damage the care that companies like mine can provide to our elders, as well as hurt our employees, in the pocket book (the French have another saying, that reflects that most elections in France have two rounds of voting.  In the first round, one votes one’s heart; in the second round, one votes one’s wallet.)

Below is an open letter to the Democratic Senators in the California legislature, who have taken a party line approach to two dangerous pieces of legislation:

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Dear Senators:

It is painful to observe what we are seeing, currently, concerning two pieces of legislation that seriously threaten both the elders to whom we provide in-home care and our employees who provide that service.  The two pieces of legislation to which I refer comprise AB 889 and SB 411.

Concerning SB 411, we would like to make clear that we fully support state licensing of non-medical home care agencies.  Indeed, we have no objection to paying considerably more than the $5000 currently in the bill, if it would mean better quality control and supervision of care for the elderly and other dependent adults.  However, the creation of an on-line registry of agencies and “certified” caregivers is, in our view, a disingenuous means to facilitate inappropriate access to our employees on the part of unions.  The other impact will be a decrease in state revenue, as more “under the table” hiring occurs from the registry.

Personally, I have long defended the importance of unions in the history of this country and others.  Frankly, since our employees make 20%-30% more than employees of the largest unionized California home care agency, we do not expect them to want a union, but it is a legal right.  However, to gratuitously provide, via what we consider an invasion of privacy of our employees, a means for unions to aggressively pursue and even harass our employees is completely inappropriate.

Please understand that this is not a resistance to true certification of Home Care Aides.  If the Legislature were to enact a requirement that all Home Care Aides must be or become Certified Nurse Assistants or Certified Home Health Aids, we would support it strongly.  Approximately 75% of our employees are currently CNAs, HHAs or even LVNs.  We think that is appropriate.

So, as to SB 411, yes, please enact licensing, even at a higher charge.  Yes, please require certification, even up to the CNA / HHA level.  Require accountability, integrity and high quality.  But please do not invade the privacy of our employees or our ability to manage our own business for the good of our employees and our clients.

Concerning AB 889, the impact on both our home care clients and employees is even more dramatic.  It is a matter of very simple arithmetic.

Currently, with the personal attendant exemption from overtime provisions, at the federal and state levels, we have employees who are being paid $192 or more for every 24-hour shift they are working.  We have many clients who require 24-hour care, seven days per week.  Our employees are paid for each and every one of those 24 hours, as required by Wage Order 15.  We currently have many employees working four day shifts, making $768 or more per week, with three days off each week.  That person’s teammate works three days and makes $576.  Our clients have two Home Care Aides each week, which means continuity of care and a minimum of disruption, which is very important to seniors.

If AB 889 is passed, we will be forced to do two things.  The first is that we would have to implement a wage schedule that would allow us to constrain costs.  Our clients cannot afford a significant increase in costs.  So, no employee could work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week, in order to avoid overtime.  Our clients cannot afford any other approach.  Thus, we would have to have 21 shifts during the week.  That means a minimum of six employees covering the shifts.  Cutting wages (normally we pay $11-$12 for eight hour shifts) to $8 per hour is inevitable, to contain costs to the client.  Thus, each person would make no more than $320 per week (three of them would make much less).  To sustain themselves, they would have to find other jobs, but their schedules would interfere with their ability to do so.

The hardship does not apply only to 24-hour shift workers.  We have clients and employees engaged in 10-hour or 12-hour shifts.  Those will all have to be cut back to 8-hour shifts, with additional Home Care Aides filling in short gaps.

We realize this is a lot of data, but we can and would be delighted to discuss it in detail with you and your staff and colleagues.

So, bottom line, yes, please license and regulate home care.  Please do not put constraints on us that you have not done on other industries, including licensed home health.

Sincerely,

Bert Cave, President                                                   Siew Pheng Tung, Vice-President

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