President's Report

The Nathan Cummings Foundation


Feburary 24, 2012

In January I had the privilege of traveling to Seattle to speak at the University of Washington. The question of the evening: How can America move toward a just domestic agenda?

This is a big question. For many of us, answering this question is what animates our work.

Despite the immense immediate challenges facing so many Americans – unemployment, underwater mortgages, wage stagnation – as well long-term crises in energy and the environment, I was able to talk about some steps that have been taken to advance a just domestic agenda.

Take home care workers.

For decades, these workers have played a vital role in our homes, providing families with invaluable support to care for their loved ones. As I wrote in my letter thanking US Labor Commissioner Hilda Solis:

Most Americans don’t realize that millions of workers in the United States are not protected by basic labor law. Among those excluded are the people so many of us rely on to care for our children and our aging relatives.

In December, you took a bold step forward to remedy this injustice. Your proposal to revise the Fair Labor Standards Act to include most home care aides would provide nearly 2.5 million workers, overwhelmingly immigrant women, with guarantees of a minimum wage and overtime pay that all of us should take for granted.

A lot of people deserve credit for this important step forward. Near the top of the list are surely the organizations leading Caring Across Generations, a national campaign to simultaneously address the needs of domestic workers, their employers, and those for whom they provide care.

Too often during times of economic retraction, philanthropists and non-profits can be talked into thinking small. We buy into the austerity argument and clip our own wings. This important step forward for home care workers should inspire us to aspire for more.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is committed to using all of the resources at our disposal to advance our mission. Often that involves making smart grants to innovative, daring non-profits. But it can also mean sending a letter.

The comment period for the Department of Labor’s rule change ends on February 27. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you will add your voice to the thousands commending the Administration for protecting the basic rights of millions of low-wage workers.