Some investigative reports reveal such extreme levels of greed, immorality and abuse that they can seem inconceivable. Such is the case of the bombshell series by the Center for Investigative Reporting on the egregious exploitation of residential care home workers. Jennifer Gollan, the Emmy Award-winning journalist in this investigation published by Reveal, joins Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer to discuss her work on this week’s episode of his podcast “Scheer Intelligence.”
Below is an excerpt from the multimedia report by Gollan:
[The] burgeoning multibillion-dollar elder care industry … is enabling operators to become wealthy by treating workers as indentured servants. Across the country, legions of these caregivers earn a pittance to tend to the elderly in residential houses refurbished as care facilities, according to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The profit margins can be huge and, for violators of labor laws, hinge on the widespread exploitation of thousands of caretakers, many of them poor immigrants effectively earning $2 to $3.50 an hour to work around the clock. The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25.
Reveal interviewed more than 80 workers, care-home operators and government regulators and reviewed hundreds of wage theft cases handled by California and federal labor regulators, workers and local district attorneys. The investigation found rampant wage theft has pushed a vast majority of these caregivers into poverty.</blockquote>
While the investigation mostly focused on California care homes, what Gollan discovered is a nationwide problem hiding in plain sight, “blend[ing] in to neighborhoods. What’s worse is that the proliferation of these homes, made possible through lax regulations is leading people to join what many see as a get-rich-quick scheme by opening and operating an elderly care facility.
“[Operators] know they can suppress workers’ wages, and then take in $4,000 a month from seniors and make up the difference,” the journalist tells Scheer on the latest installment of his podcast. “There are many, many entrepreneurs on YouTube promoting this business in particular as a money-making machine, and a place where you can get into the business, the real estate end of the business, flip a house, make a few adjustments, and care for a bunch of seniors, open a care home and make a lot of money.”
The mistreatment and underpayment of workers, some of whom are undocumented and therefore unable or afraid to report the labor abuses to the authorities, don’t just affect their lives, however. It also leads to conditions where the health and safety of the senior citizens placed in the care of these facilities are neglected. As Scheer points out, this scandal may be indicative of a larger moral issue at play in wider American society.
“This has been going on for a long time,” Scheer tells Gollan. “And where are the other journalists? And where are the legislators? Why aren’t they more proactive? Why haven’t they been looking into it?”
According to Gollan, policymakers are at the very least beginning to wake up to the issue. This is in large part due to her valiant journalist efforts.
“We’ve heard from some state lawmakers that they’re mobilizing for the next session to write some legislation to clean up the industry and protect workers,” the Reveal reporter explains. “And we’re hearing from some federal lawmakers that they are taking a close look at this.”
Listen to the full discussion between Scheer and Gollan as they talk about the operators, exploited workers and regulators who have had a role to play in the rampant abuse of workers taking care of the most vulnerable members of American society.