About 20 home health attendants gathered to protest 24 hour shifts and demand payment for unpaid hours outside the offices of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) headquarters at 150 Elizabeth St. on Wednesday.
“Those patients who get 24 hour care are in serious conditions — they have Alzheimer’s, they are paralyzed, they previously had strokes, heart problems, or diabetes… We have a huge pressure on us, we have to observe the patients,” said Lai Yee Chan, 66, a home attendant at the protest.
The protest was organized by worker rights advocates and employees who are urging CPC to end 24 hour work shifts and compensate individuals who have worked 24 hour shifts but were paid for 13 hours due to a rule that allows an employer to pay home health aides for only thirteen if the aide ”is allowed a sleep break of at least 8 hours — and actually receives five hours of uninterrupted sleep — and three hours of meal break time.”
Chan, who emigrated to the states back in 1988, expressed that it is impossible to get sleep when patients “with Alzheimer’s roam around the apartment,” and they have to ensure that nothing happens to them and be ready to call 911. She has been working for CPC for 21 years. She had been doing 24 hour shifts for nine years until she sued the agency and was able to reduce her shift to nine hours a day.
Zhu Qin Chen, 66, who has also worked under CPC for 20 years and had done the 24 hour shift for 9 years — alternating 3 to 4 days per week— also echoed Chan’s sentiment.
“Patients need to get up, go to the bathroom. They need food. Sometimes we have to flip their body every 2 hours. Sometimes they don’t sleep, they watch TV. So we have to stay awake.”
Chen added that her physical health and mental deterioration, and that she has been having back problems along with pain in her hands.
The pressure to urge Chinese Planning Council to pay the difference of the 13-hour wages comes from a settlement in which NY’s Supreme Court in March ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered Income Home Health Care Group LLC and Angeles Home Healthcare LLC to pay homecare workers 5.5 hours at $12.00 per hour for each reported 24 hour shift.
“If for profit companies are paying back wages, why can’t the non-profit company pay?” chimed in Qunxiang Ling, 75, who worked 24 hour shifts for ten years.
On August 17th, CPC Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer Carlyn Cowen presented testimony on behalf of the CPC Home Attendant Program Inc. at the New York State Senate Joint Public Hearing on Nursing Home, Assisted Living, and Homecare Workforce, in which she advocated for end of the 24 Hour Rule, and an increase the minimum wage for home care workers to 150% if the minimum wage in the region.
Chan along with other employees who attended feel that their pleas have landed on deaf ears. “More than 50 people have signed a letter that we sent back in April, but they have never reached out to us,” she said.