Lightfoot launches campaign to lift pay and benefits of home care workers

“I grew up watching my mother as a home health care aide and saw her tireless work met with minimal pay and no benefits,” the mayor said. “We must create safe workplaces for everyone, regardless of where that work takes place.”

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Health aides who provide in-home care deserve better pay, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has launched a campaign to raise the pay, benefits and working conditions of Chicago’s housekeepers, child care providers and home health care aides who are predominantly “women of color” and immigrants.

The “Your Home is Someone’s Workplace” campaign is part of the war on poverty she launched long before Blacks and Hispanics bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, wideningthe gap between Chicago’s haves and have-nots.

“We can no longer accept the devaluation of care workers who are mostly women of color in our city,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a press release Friday.

“I grew up watching my mother as a home health care aide and saw her tireless work met with minimal pay and no benefits. We must create safe workplaces for everyone, regardless of where that work takes place. Today, in the face of a crushing need for care and care work, we begin an effort that will improve the lives of care workers.”

According to the mayor’s office, the Chicago area has more than 56,000 care workers. It’s a burgeoning industry expected to grow by more than 200 percent by 2028.

Those who work in Chicago homes are supposed to be paid a minimum wage of at least $13.50-an-hour as well as five days of paid sick leave, but many are not, according to City Hall. They also routinely go without health insurance and paid time off, making it difficult to care for their own families.

The campaign launched Thursday is aimed at providing home care workers with: a “fair, living wage”; paid time off; safe workplaces and written expectations that have been “mutually-agreed upon.”

The campaign includes public service announcements highlighting the contributions of home care workers and a city website — www.chi.gov/care — that includes resources and guidelines on creating safe workplaces.

To prevent “human trafficking,” Lightfoot also is creating a “Protecting Workers Working Group” to advise the city on ways to stop domestic workers from being exploited by human traffickers.

Andrew Fox, director of the city’s Office of Labor Standards, said all Chicago employees “deserve workforce practices that enhance equity, address wage gaps and protect against mistreatment.”

He added:“Care workers in particular are vulnerable to exploitation and we will continue to fight to uphold and protect their rights.”

Until the pandemic brought normal life to a halt,Lightfoot’s biggest concern was her war on poverty and her plan to target 10 inner-city neighborhoods for an unprecedented $250 million city investment and $500 million more from other government agencies.

She delivered a $15-an-hour minimum wage — cleverly tied to her 2020 budget — and a predictable scheduling ordinance that provided signature victories for organized labor.

After the stay-at-home shutdown triggered by the pandemic, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jack Lavin urged the mayor to delay implementation of the minimum wage and predictable scheduling ordinances for six months.

The mayor stood her ground, arguing that protecting low-wage, essential workers was more important than ever.

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