Background: In April, Mei Kum Chu and a group of injured and retired home attendants formerly employed by Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) brought a class action case against their employer. Inspired by Lai Yee Chan and other current employees, these former workers launched their own lawsuit to demand back pay for years of 24-hour shifts without proper compensation. CPC argued that because 1199SEIU, the former workers’ union, had amended the contract to compel arbitration in labor conflicts, the former workers should submit to the new contract and enter into arbitration.
The Decision: Last week, Hon. Katherine Forrest, U.S. District Judge, decided that Chu and other former home attendants could pursue their claims in State Court, rather than being forced to enter into arbitration. She explained that because the contract was amended after the plaintiffs stopped working for CPC, the employer could not retroactively apply the mandatory arbitration clause to their claims. Therefore they could pursue claims for non-payment that occurred between April 2008 – June 2015.
This decision, sets a precedent and therefore has a huge impact: All the home attendants who worked between April 2008 and June 2015 now have the chance to pursue back wages. It also covers workers in many other home care agencies. Law-abiding employers can take it easy, but sweatshop bosses should start to worry. Mei Kum Chu and other former home attendants fought against numerous odds to come together and demand justice. They faced years of isolation and exploitation by their employer, lies from their own union and indifference from the Department of Labor. They encourage all workers to come forward and join them in the Justice for Homecare Workers Campaign.
Do you think it’s right to force workers into arbitration? What about forcing workers to do overtime? Do you have ideas on how to promote the campaign or want to get involved? You can:
- Sign the new petition to 1199SEIU here
- Tweet our position paper on why we need to #Fightfor40 and #StopMandatoryOT to President Obama and any presidential candidate.
- Get your organization to endorse the campaign here.
- Organize in your community and/or invite us to speak at your next event.
Dear Mr. President:
CC: Candidates Darrell Castle (C), Hillary Clinton (D), Gary Johnson (L), Jill Stein (G) and Donald Trump (R)
We write to you today with the utmost urgency. The recent updates to overtime rules, along with increases to the minimum wage, allow more workers to receive compensation for overtime. However, they do nothing to address the dangerous nature of overwork. Every day, workers of all types are forced to work overtime, putting ourselves and our co-workers at risk. The damage doesn’t stop there- mandatory overtime causes problems for nearly every American, including our families, those seeking employment, and consumers of the products and services being created.
Mandatory overtime means that workers cannot say no to working more than 40 hours a week. This problem is highlighted by many home care workers who have begun organizing against forced 24-hr shifts, multiple days per week. These workers, most of whom are women, frequently struggle with physical and psychological problems. As one worker says, “Our health is the most important. No money can buy it.” No pay scale is more important than the ability to control our time.
As workers, we have families and loved ones who depend on us. An injury makes the difficult job of caring for children and elderly relatives nearly impossible. It may also hinder one’s ability to work, which would threaten the family’s livelihood.
The millions of Americans currently seeking jobs would also benefit from the elimination of mandatory overtime. If workers could decline overtime, employers would need to hire additional workers. This is a sensible way to create more jobs, which our country desperately needs.
Lastly, consumers have a lot to gain from this proposed legislative change. For example, if overworked home care attendants could opt to work a normal 40-hr week when needed, they would be more alert and able to provide quality care for their patients. If workers had the right to say no to overtime, consumers of many goods and services could expect a higher quality product or service.
Home attendants, manufacturing workers and workers in many other industries are already organizing against mandatory overtime and calling for the right to a 40-hour work week. Working overtime should be a choice. We urge you to stand with your fellow Americans and create legislation that will put these wrongs to a halt.
The Ain’t I a Woman!? Campaign