Gui Chen worked 24-hour shifts as a home attendant and got up six to eight times every night to help her patient use the bathroom. When she reported her nighttime work to her employer, Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), CPC threatened to sue her and send her to jail for “defrauding the government.” Another home attendant, Zhu Chen, was required to flip her patient every two hours throughout each 24-hour shift to prevent bedsores, and was yelled at by CPC when she reported her nighttime work. Then CPC threatened the patient’s family to send the patient to a nursing home if she admitted to needing so much care.
CPC is the third-largest nonprofit home care agency in New York State, an employer of thousands of Asian immigrant women home attendants and a luxury real estate developer. They receive more than $200 million in state funding each year. However, CPC breaks state laws and refuses to pay workers more than 13 hours for each 24-hour shift, threatening workers and patients to systematically continue this racist and sexist practice. The more vulnerable they think you are, the more cruel their treatment.
24-hour shifts are violence, leaving workers’ hands, arms, and backs permanently disabled from caring for patients without rest. They also endanger patients, as sleep-deprived, overworked home attendants cannot provide the best care to those who depend on it to survive. But in response to the community’s demands to end 24-hour shifts by implementing split shifts and pay back stolen wages, CPC says they need even more state funding, or they won’t stop abusing their own workers. They are distorting the very logic of the law regarding state and Medicaid funding.
The truth is, the 24-hour shifts continue because the state government is not enforcing state labor laws and has let the CPC get away with stealing over $90 million in wages. Workers sued CPC in 2015 for their violations of the Minimum Wage Act and the Home Care Worker Wage Parity Act, laws which require bosses to pay workers for every hour worked. The Home Care Worker Wage Parity Act clearly states that home care agencies must comply with the act to be eligible for any public funding, Medicaid or otherwise. The highest court in New York State also clearly ruled in 2019 that the CPC is required to pay the full 24 hours if workers don’t get five hours of continuous sleep at night. CPC ignores these laws, using expensive lawyers over the past seven years to deny workers even their day in court.
Assemblymember Ron Kim, who recently released a damning report detailing CPC’s years of abuse of home attendants and labor violations, correctly recommends the state government start enforcing state laws, by withholding public funding from CPC until they are following the law.
Despite being legally ineligible for any state funding, CPC is using the Fair Pay for Home Care bill to get more. Ironically but not surprisingly, the “Fair Pay” bill is more “fair” for bosses than for workers. Passing it does not mean CPC will end 24-hour shifts or even pay workers for every hour worked; instead it only guarantees that more public money will flow into CPC. To be clear, even passing a law to ban 24-hour shifts would not stop CPC’s violence. This entity is flagrantly breaking existing state laws, preventing workers from suing for what they are owed — all while paying lip service to passing new laws they know will be meaningless without enforcement and using elected officials’ good intentions to further enrich themselves. CPC is making a mockery of our State government.
We call on State legislators and Governor Hochul to join Assemblymember Ron Kim in enforcing state laws and ending this violence against women of color workers. This must start with holding accountable CPC, who has set a precedent for the entire industry. No more public money should go toward supporting CPC’s abuses. Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou is asking for $2.7 million in discretionary funding for CPC in this year’s state budget, supposedly for CPC to help Asian communities. We call on Assemblymember Niou and others to instead do your jobs and hold CPC accountable for the harm inflicted on our communities.
For seven years, immigrant women home attendants have been bravely standing up, saying that these 24-hour workdays are torturing them and hurting patients, demanding that CPC stop. Let’s not have another year of delay. Another year of funding CPC’s illegal, immoral, racist, and sexist acts. Another year of women’s bodies being ground down and worked to death. Any elected official who claims to stand with women of color and Asian communities, must demand that CPC stop their violence against us, today.Kathy Lu and Zishun Ning are organizers with the Ain’t I A Woman?! Campaign. For more information, visit: aintiawoman.org
Please support independent media today! Now celebrating its 22nd year publishing, The Indypendent is still standing but it’s not easy. Make a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home.