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Policy: Labor

Minimum wage extended to home health care workers

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Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Health Care,Thomas Perez

Home health care industry workers who mainly assist the elderly or immobile will now be included under federal minimum wage laws beginning in 2015, the Labor Department announced Tuesday.

"Many American families rely on the vital services provided by direct care workers," Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a statement. “Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home."

The move was long sought by organized labor and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka applauded it. "[S]ince 1975, the Labor Department has allowed an entire, fast-growing industry to operate outside the law. Today, with the active support of a wide array of advocates, the Obama administration has corrected this historic injustice," he said in a statement.

Republicans argued the decision would only hurt the elderly. "The department’s previous estimates suggest this regulation could increase the cost of care by $2 billion over the next decade. Faced with higher costs, some individuals will have no choice but to leave their homes and enter institutional living," said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairman Tim Walberg, R-Mo., in a joint statement.

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