The push to improve working conditions for U.S. caregivers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Ai-jen Poo wants to transform caregiving into real work.

By “real,” she does not mean more difficult. Rather, the activist and author is seeking recognition of the value of domestic work, and to raise its status and pay accordingly. “It’s the work that makes all other work possible,” said Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and author of the  best-selling book “The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.”

“Caregiving is the work that allows the rest of us to go out and do our work in the world, but it has been made invisible and taken for granted,” she said. “It’s not called real work – it’s unskilled, ‘help’ paying poverty wages.”

Poo has been active since the mid-1990s in the movement to organize caregivers, nannies and other domestic workers to fight for equal rights and better wages. Along with leading the New York City-based NDWA, she co-directs Caring Across Generations, which focuses mainly on policy at the state and local level. Poo’s work was recognized by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which awarded her one of its “genius grants” in 2014.

NDWA has 63 local affiliates and chapters around the country, and organizes nearly 200,000 workers. In 2013, the organization played a key role in getting the U.S. Department of Labor to rewrite rules to include domestic workers in the federal government’s minimum wage and hours protections. The organization also has helped win passage of legislation in eight states that extends basic protections

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