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Low-Income Workers and Families

Care Work is Real Work — And Must Be Compensated as Such

Thursday morning, the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in Home Care Association of America vs. Weil, the Department of Labor’s appeal of a district court decision vacating central provisions of new regulations extending basic protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—like minimum wage and overtime pay—to nearly two million home care workers.

Shortly after the arguments, workers and advocates gathered on the front steps of the courthouse for a press conference to put the case in context and to bring forward the stories of the workers and the families seeking home care who will be affected by the case. Workers spoke about the struggle to care for their patients while barely being able to make ends meet for their own families. Wages in the field are low: one quarter of workers are paid below the federal minimum wage, and the median wage is below $10 an hour. On top of that, home care workers are not ensured overtime pay like other hourly workers under the FLSA. Paula Wilson, a home care worker, spoke about the close relationships she forms with her consumers, and how she will often stay longer with them when they are going through periods of stress or aggravated illness but will not be compensated for that time. She emphasized that home care is not a profession where you can just clock out at the end of the day—but that the current system exploits workers for their compassion, instead of fairly compensating them for improving the quality of care that patients receive. Read more »

Another Step Toward Fair Pay: Reforming Overtime Pay Protections

Today, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced that the Department of Labor has drafted a rule to reform overtime pay protections. Along with raising the minimum wage—which would rise to $12 an hour by 2020 under the Raise the Wage Act which was introduced in Congress last week—requiring that workers with modest salaries are compensated for all the hours they work would boost the earnings of millions of hard-working women and men and strengthen our communities and economy.

A little history: the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, in addition to setting a minimum wage, established the basic 40-hour workweek. Hourly workers and workers with salaries below a specified threshold, set by regulation, are entitled to overtime pay—at least time-and-a half their regular rate of pay—for hours in excess of 40 per week. The Act exempts more highly paid professional and managerial employees from the overtime rules. Read more »

New Fact Sheet Outlines the Latest Legislative Developments in the Movement for Fair Work Schedules

There is a growing movement across our nation for fair work schedules. This movement is spurred by women like Hilaria Bonilla, a single mother, who testified in a hearing on Maryland’s fair work schedules bill [PDF] about the consequences to her family of an extremely difficult work schedule. She has worked for her employer for more than a decade and earns only $11 per hour. Getting only one week’s notice of her schedule makes it extremely difficult for Ms. Bonilla to be involved in her 10 year old daughter’s school or to make doctor’s appointments for herself or her daughter. Despite having asked not to work nights, she is routinely assigned to the night shift. Ms. Bonilla testified that having more notice and more of a say in when she works would make all the difference to her ability to care for her daughter. Read more »

House and Senate Pass Budgets Slashing Programs for Struggling Families, Advance Tax Cuts for Multimillionaires

Bad news on the federal budget front continues this week: on Wednesday, a Republican majority in the House passed a budget plan that slashes trillions of dollars from programs for low-income families but shields tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. And in the wee hours this morning, the Senate wrapped up its budget debate and passed a similarly disastrous proposal along party lines. Though the House and Senate budget resolutions are blueprints—legislation making the changes they call for would still have to be enacted—they are an important statement of congressional priorities, and in the words of Senator Sanders (D-VT), the Republican budgets “say those people who are struggling, those people who are trying to feed their families, those people who are trying to send their kids to college, those are not the people that we should be helping. Rather, we’ve got to worry about the top 1 percent.” Read more »

A Closer Look at Re-Branding Budget Proposals: “Flexibility” For SNAP

While we’ve already pointed out that the budget resolution released this week by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) claims to address the plight of struggling American families, but its proposals would almost certainly increase poverty and inequality—I wanted to take a closer look at its proposal for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). SNAP provides low-income families with access to nutritious food; it is one of the most reliable supports for families during tough economic times and one of the most effective programs in alleviating poverty.  SNAP served 46.5 million people in 22.7 million households on average each month in FY 2014. 

The Price budget converts SNAP to a “State Flexibility Fund,” which it claims would give “state governments…the power to administer the program in ways that best fit the needs of their communities with greater incentives to achieve better results.” This is a round-about way of announcing that the budget would cut funding for the program and get rid of the feature of the program that guarantees that all eligible people can receive the food assistance they need, when they need it—the very feature that currently allows SNAP to be flexible and increase funding automatically to adjust to demand. Read more »

Price House Budget Resolution Is Disastrous News for Women and Families

House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) just released a budget resolution outlining his priorities for FY 2016 and beyond. While the introduction to his plan observes that “[t]he economy is not working for many Americans,” and “[a] lot of people are struggling to keep up or are being left behind altogether,” he has a funny way of showing his concern for their plight; like the budget plans put forward in recent years by Price’s predecessor, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Price plan balances the budget on the backs of vulnerable women and their families. The Price budget would: Read more »

Winning the Lottery Shouldn’t Be the Only Ticket to Economic Security

Most of us have probably thought about what we’d do if we won the lottery. From the more financially responsible options—pay off student loans, buy a house, invest in retirement accounts—to the more far-fetched (lifetime supply of chocolate, anyone?), the possibilities are endless.

This week, that dream came true for Marie Holmes, a single mother of four from North Carolina who won $188 million from Powerball

Accounts of Holmes’ win mention that until recently, she had been working two jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart to support her children, one of whom lives with cerebral palsy. And although we don’t have in-depth details about Holmes’ job situation or family life, the basics of her story—working more than one low-wage job and struggling to take care of her children—echo the experiences of women across the country. Read more »

Working Families Pay Too Much in State and Local Taxes

Remember when a presidential nominee famously said, “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. …” ?

According to the Tax Policy Center [PDF], that was the approximate fraction of households that paid no federal income tax for 2009. But, as the Tax Policy Center went on to explain, almost two thirds of the 47 percent work and contribute payroll taxes that help finance Social Security and Medicare. The temporarily unemployed, those who used to work and have now retired, those who make too little to be subject to the income tax, and entrepreneurs whose businesses experience a loss may not be paying income tax or payroll tax in a particular year but will have contributed a great deal over time. And let’s not forget the wealthy and big corporations who exploit loopholes to avoid taxes. Read more »

Starve American Workers Act Is More Like It

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed H.R. 30, a bill to chip away at the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide health coverage for employees who work at least 30 hours a week, amending it so that employers would only be required to provide health insurance coverage to those who work 40 hours per week. Read more »

Putting a Value on Caregiving

Everyone knows that raising children is pricey—the USDA estimates it costs nearly $250,000 to raise one child to adulthood (not even counting college!).  But what you might not know is how much all the time and effort parents put in to childrearing is worth to our economy. This is because the value of unpaid caregiving and childrearing—the lion’s share of which is done by women—is largely unrecognized and rarely quantified. Read more »