Home healthcare workers see potential end to 24-hour shifts at City Hall rally supporting new legislation

Droves of predominantly elderly homecare workers and their supporters braved the sweltering heat at City Hall Park Tuesday to call upon the City Council to stop what they call an abhorrent abuse of workers.

According to workers, patients, and their families, homecare attendants are often forced to work 24-hour shifts while only being compensated for half that time — creating a cycle of abuse that leaves both patients and the caregivers at risk.

Manhattan City Council Member Christopher Marte is leading the charge to halt this practice. Enveloped by a legion of undulating signs urging an end to the 24-hour workday, Marte revealed his own, deep connection to the issue.

Many seniors showed up to support the bill. Photo by Dean Moses
Despite the beaming sun, supporters ensured their voices were heard. Photo by Dean Moses

“My mom was a home attendant,” Marte told the crowd, “My mom would work in Chester, Bronx. She commuted two hours and took care of a senior who was bedridden. And many times, her agency said: ‘You have to work 24 hours because that’s the only job that’s offered for you.’ And as a child, I will see my mom leave on Monday, and sometimes don’t see her until Thursday. Imagine the mental and physical damage that was put on my mom, on our family.”

Marte has introduced a bill that would prohibit workers from being similarly exploited; he credited the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign for organizing and revealing the hardships of workers, which ultimately led to the legislation’s creation.

And Marte offered hope the bill might be on a path toward passage. The lawmaker said 21 council members have signed onto the bill while four more have pledged their support — a total of 25 City Council members in all, two votes shy of a majority.

Councilmember Christopher Marte is leading the charge to halt this practice. Photo by Dean Moses
The sidewalk overflowed with supporters. Photo by Dean Moses

The legislation’s potential passage comes as a relief to those who say they have experienced days of unending work. Many of them are members of the AAPI community and/or limited English speakers who have been suffering in silence for years.

“This job brought me insomnia, anxiety, a nervous breakdown, high blood pressure, and back pain. Now I have to take sleeping pills and physical therapy. Twenty-four-hour workdays have turned me into a patient. Why do the insurance companies and homecare agencies force us home attendants into such torture,” Miss Wang asked with the help of a translator.

Many say lives have been lost due to the long hours. Photo by Dean Moses
The practice is also said to be equivalent to violence. Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses