Why I am supporting Joe Biden
10/22/2020, 6 p.m.
I’ve taken deep pride in my job during the past 20 years as a home care worker. The essential care I’ve provided to my clients — taking them to doctor appointments, reminding them to take their medication, shopping for groceries, assisting with bathing and meals — has helped them to live at home with independence and dignity.
During the coronavirus pandemic, home care workers have become even more critical. We are the first line of defense to protect those at the highest risk for the virus, including parents, grandparents and loved ones with disabilities.
Despite our pivotal role, home care workers have been working in the shadows of our com- munities, with few protections, for far too long. Home care workers, who are predominantly women and people of color like myself, have devoted our lives to taking care of others’ family members. But systemic racism and sexism have kept us down, making it a daily struggle to care for our own families.
Home care workers have been continuously excluded from protections enjoyed by other American workers, starting with the first mini- mum wage and overtime laws. In 41 states, the majority of home care workers still do not have the legal right to join a union. Most recently, the Trump administration allowed some employers to exclude home care workers from the paid sick and family leave provisions in the coronavirus relief bill.
This devaluing of home care work has im- pacted every aspect of my life. For my entire career, I never made more than about $8.50 an hour. I had no health insurance, paid sick time or any other benefits whatsoever. Like 53 percent of the home care workforce, I must rely on public assistance just to survive.
After a life of dedicated caregiving, I find myself at age 57 temporarily unable to work due to disability and without a permanent home. But that hasn’t stopped me and my fellow home care workers from demanding, through our union, fundamental changes to fix our broken caregiv- ing system. We have made some progress but still have a long way to go.
So when I first heard about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s economic plan to invest in home care services and jobs, my heart swelled.
In order to meet the growing demand from our country’s aging population, Mr. Biden’s plan would expand funding for home care, eliminate the long waiting list for services and create a million and a half new jobs. At the same time, his plan would solve a severe workforce shortage by increasing pay; providing benefits such as paid sick leave, family leave and health care; expanding job training opportunities; and ensuring all caregivers have the basic right to join a union to advocate for themselves, their families and their clients.
I believe this is the most important election of our lives. In Joe Biden’s vision of America, we are a country that cares for each other, lifts each other up and keeps each other safe. That’s the kind of country I want for my daughter and grandson.
And that’s why I’m talking to all my fellow home care workers, family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they vote for Joe Biden.
The writer is a member of the home care and public service union, SEIU Virginia 512.