Tracy has built a career helping others, but she feels like she’s taken a vow of poverty.

When Tracy Dudzinski got her start in care work shortly after high school, she had no idea what she was getting into.

Tracy grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin. She married her high school sweetheart after graduating, and they started to build their lives together. But when a disability left him unable to work, Tracy's path changed; she needed to bring in some extra money.

A nursing home in town was offering free certified nursing assistant classes, so she signed up. Tracy didn’t really understand what care work involved. She figured it couldn’t be much harder than babysitting, so she jumped right in.


The reality shocked her.

Image via Tracy Dudzinsky, used with permission. ‌‌

You see, care work is definitely not babysitting. It’s much more than that.  

Care workers are challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. They monitor medication use for their patients, some of whom may suffer from illnesses like dementia. They assist with bathing, grooming, and other personal care. They prepare meals. They assist with housekeeping and so much more.

The people receiving care are dependent on their caregivers, and the caregivers are very aware of the responsibility that comes with that type of dependency. They don’t want to let anyone down.

But in so many ways, caregivers are being let down by the system.

Since care work doesn’t require a college degree, it's considered entry-level, so workers scrape by on extremely low salaries. With an average hourly wage of $9.25, Tracy says that many caregivers can’t even afford their own health care costs — even though their job involves caring for the health of others.

"They always say 'caregivers are a special kind of people,'" Tracy said. "Because people know that if you’re really, truly a caregiver, you’re going to take care of people no matter what. So you kind of get taken advantage of."

‌Image via CQC Press Office/Flickr. ‌

She continued:

"I missed a lot of my kids' high school sports activities. I actually left my son's graduation party because they called me, and the person I was helping needed service — someone had called in ... because if I don’t do it or my company doesn’t help take care of people, what will happen to them? ... It’s the right thing to do. But even though it’s the right thing to do, we’re not respected. We’re not paid what we’re worth ... it’s almost like you take a vow of poverty."

Still, Tracy shows up for work every day because she feels an obligation to help. Because she knows the work she does isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. It saves lives.

So why is this the state of affairs? Well, it's complicated.

Home care workers care for older individuals and individuals with disabilities, many of whom cannot afford the care they need. They rely on government assistance like Medicaid to cover the cost of their care. But here's the thing: What the government pays for home care isn't enough. And it hasn't been for a long time.

Home care workers have been devalued since President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, when a block of congressmen refused to allow the deal to pass until certain job protections were removed. These job protections would have included basic rights, such as wage and overtime protections for domestic roles — roles that were primarily filled by black women. Not much changed until recently, when the Fair Labor Standards Act made improvements that require agencies to pay home care workers minimum wage and overtime. But there is still more work to be done.

The reimbursement rate — the amount the state actually pays to home care providers on behalf of individuals — has to increase. If it doesn't, home care — the people who need it and the people who deliver it — will continue to suffer. Home care workers will continue to struggle to care for their own families, and we'll fail to make home care work an appealing job, even as the need for home care workers rises.

Image via Geralt/Pixabay.

Awareness of this problem is the first step toward a solution.

Tracy points out that "there’s a lot more to this line of work that the public doesn’t know unless someone they love is receiving service."  And even then, a lot of people receiving home care aren't aware of how little the caregivers make and the struggles they face.

So for now, workers have taken it upon themselves to demand fair wages. They show up to work each day and they organize on the side, joining groups such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance. They go to meetings and they learn to speak up for themselves because if no one knows their stories, nothing will ever change.

And there are steps being made in the right direction. Businesses like Cooperative Care — where Tracy now works as an administrative coordinator and caregiver — are trying to take initiative and shake up the industry. Cooperative Care is employee-owned. In many ways, this means they operate like their own union, looking out for the best interests of the workers while being mindful of very real business needs. And their workers are able to make $30,500 per year — which is 30% to 50% above the industry median. It’s still not enough, but it’s a start. Their model works; they're just limited by the state's reimbursement rate.

That’s why The Fight for $15 is so important.

It’s shining a spotlight on this issue, showing its complexity. Because the fight for a livable minimum wage has never been a simple one.

The state reimbursement rate has to be raised to make that much-needed salary hike a reality. And cutting back on staff isn’t an option: As the large baby boomer population ages, the demand for home care work rises. In North Carolina, the percent of the population age 65 and older is expected to grow to 2.8 million by 2050, up from 1.3 million in 2012. And that's just one state.

So, the demand is there and the need is clear, but the salary requires a sacrifice that shouldn’t be asked of these workers. Care work providers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and they're hoping that as their voices are heard, the barriers will fall away.

Tracy says her daughter has chosen to enter the industry in spite of her cautions.

She’s seen the reality, seen her mother’s struggles, and still, she wants to help. There are people, like Tracy and her daughter, who will continue to answer the call to help, which makes it even more important that we make sure their voices are heard. They devote their lives to helping others and are only fighting for the ability to support themselves. No more, no less.

Change is around the corner. The Fair Labor Standards Act was recently revised to include caregivers. More co-ops like Cooperative Care are being formed. The tide is turning, slowly. But more is needed.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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