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Lawmakers join activists in the push for a Home Care Worker Bill of Rights

A person holding the hand of an older adult.
Matthias Zomer
Lawmakers, advocates and home-care industry veterans are pushing the legislature to create a Home Care Worker Bill of Rights.

Colorado lawmakers joined activists and veterans of the home care industry at the State Capitol on Tuesday to demand more protections for those who provide at-home care.

They want the legislature to create a Home Care Workers Bill of Rights during the upcoming legislative session that would cover nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care aides. The group also announced 50 lawmakers and legislative candidates are now backing the efforts, according to reporting from Colorado Newsline.

Thornton’s Democratic State Senator Faith Winter, spoke in support of additional worker protections. She said this isn’t the first time lawmakers have heard about problems in the home-care industry. They’ve seen low pay and poor conditions, citing wage theft and unfair treatment.

Speakers at the rally also included members of the SIEU Local 143 union, which represents home care workers, and the advocacy group Colorado Care Workers Unite.

Cassandra Matthews is a member of the latter who worked for decades as an at-home caregiver. She says low pay and unsafe conditions drive many people away from the industry and that just this year, 60% of home care workers will leave the industry.

As a result, the state is already facing a shortage of home care workers. Colorado is considered to be the third fastest aging state in the country, and tens of thousands of additional home-care workers will likely be needed in coming years. According to the Colorado Health Institute, 70% of people will receive home care during their lives.

Advocates say a bill of rights would help achieve better wages and working conditions for workers who provide at-home care for people like the elderly or the disabled. Legislation in 2019 raised the minimum wage for those in-home care, but advocates say that was just one step in improving worker welfare.

Originally from Southern California, Lucas spent the last decade living in New York City, which is where he started his journalism career. He's been an NPR junkie for as long as he can remember, but really fell in love with reporting radio news at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he received his master's degree. He's reported on a variety of issues, including covering healthcare at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.