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Underpaid and Overworked: The Fight to End 24-Hour Shifts for Home Care Workers in New York City

MACAYA: Home care workers in New York City are sometimes asked to work 24-hour shifts, yet they are paid for only 13. Why? The law assumes they get breaks: three hours for meals and eight hours for sleep, including five hours of uninterrupted rest. But workers say they’re not getting the rest they’re legally allowed. A bill has been introduced to abolish 24-hour shifts, but it’s stalled. And as Tommaso Baronio reports workers continue to push for change. 

BARONIO: It’s a wednesday morning and an angry crowd is circling in front of city hall. They’re carrying colorful signs, wearing red bandanas and chanting

CHANTING“No more 24”


BARONIO: I’m here with with HUSSAIN: Sultanah Hussain.  BARONIO: what are we protesting for today? So homecare attendants are forced by their agencies to work 24 hour shifts, BARONIO Hussain is one of the protestors.. ‘And she has personal reasons for being here today

HUSSAIN: My mom is a home health aide. So this is an intimate issue for me as well.

BARONIOThere are almost a million and a half seniors in New York City and the city’s elderly population is growing dramatically.  As a result the number of home aides responsible for their care has more than doubled. As of 2022, there were over half a million of home health aids statewide.

HUSSAIN we have tried to get a bill passed with city council called No More 24 It has not been successfully passed.  We have been protesting at City Hall for several months now. To no avail.

BARONIO City council member Christopher Marte sponsored the bill. It would limit the shift to 12 hours within a 24 hours period. Marte introduced the bill twice. In 2022 and then again earlier this month. And it got stuck, twice. So today some protestors are here trying a dramatic solution. A Hunger strike. 

Home care workers stepped onto a small wooden stage to share their stories and the impact of the job on their health.

Guihua Song, a retired Chinese-American home care worker, says the job was a nightmare for her. Her words were translated by an interpreter.

SONG: I've been working 24 hour shifts for eight years. I got badly injured working 24 I can no longer work. today. 

BARONIO: Song wants to put an end to the long shifts, and she supports the new bill. Like Song, the majority of workers present are women and live in Chinatown. 

SONG: We are here again to demand the City Council Speaker Adams immediately brings intro 615 to a vote. We want to abolish this inhumane 24 hour workday and stop the violence against women of color. 

BARONIO The hunger strike went on for five days. But at the end the council had still not voted on the bill. 

The protest was led by Ain’t I a Woman, an advocacy group that supports home health aid worker’s rights. Jun Chan volunteers with the group. He grew up in Chinatown. He says he knows a lot of workers like Song. 

CHUAN: It's just one of those things. It's like, Oh, if you're Chinese, and you grew up in Chinatown, you know, like, you're going to have, you know, like, either, you know, your mom's doing home care, or not necessarily 24 hours, but you know, like, that, that job? Or, you know, you know, you have a relative or a friend's mom, in my case, my friend's mom was doing 24 hours

BARONIO Chaun says last year Ain’t I a woman held a rally every month in front of City Hall. But the bill remained stuck. And the group blames speaker Adrienne Adams for never allowing a vote to move forward. 

CHUAN And so, you know, we expect, oh, she's doing this on behalf of the homecare agencies and the insurance companies. Right because otherwise there’s no reason to not let people even vote on it.

BARONIO Christopher Marte, the bill’s sponsor, agrees. He also blames special interests.

MARTE We know that there are homecare agencies that don't want to pay the workers more. There's also insurance companies that are making money off Medicare based off the current system, right you got to think about is someone's working for 24 hour shifts and only getting 13 hours of paid, who's getting the other 11?

BARONIO When asked their thoughts on the bill and whether the current law treats workers fairly, three of the largest healthcare agencies in New York declined to comment.

For now, there ‘s no vote planned fo the bill.

Tommaso Baronio Columbia Radio News.


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