A financial win for underpaid home health care union workers did not nearly go far enough, some labor organizers said Monday.

The union 1199SEIU initially issued a celebratory announcement last Monday, saying it secured a victory when an arbitrator decided that 42 home care agencies would have to compensate current and former employees $30 million to make up for underpaying them for 24-hour shifts and other assignments dating back several years. But what 1199 has dubbed a win, grassroots labor organizers said is an insult to New York home care workers, the majority of whom are women of color.

“Despite its branding, the settlement signals a shameful historic low for women and for the labor movement,” the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign, which fights for fair pay for home care workers, said in a statement. The group will be holding a rally in lower Manhattan on Tuesday to condemn the union for supporting the arbitration decision.

The arbitration award covers more than 100,000 workers in all, but only between 5,000 and 7,000 of them have worked on 24-hour shifts, 1199SEIU said. Grassroots labor advocates said those workers are set to get a tiny fraction of what they’re owed, and that the true figure may be as much as $5 billion to $6 billion.

That’s what 1199SEIU itself estimated for its members on 24-hour shifts if they were paid for every hour on the job over the past six years — the statute of limitations for wage-and-hour claims in New York state.

As it stands, home care workers get paid for 13 hours of each 24-hour shift. In 2019, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that this practice was legal, but only if workers got all the sleep and meal breaks they were entitled to under the law — something all-day home care workers said was often impossible, given their duties.

In a newly surfaced audio recording from a 2019 meeting, a lawyer for 1199SEIU was heard telling home care workers to manage their expectations for what they will receive from the arbitration proceedings.

“There’s probably not going to be enough to pay everybody back for every hour they should have been paid when they missed their meal breaks and their rest breaks,” said lawyer Dan Ratner, as his words were translated into Chinese for the workers.

He went on to echo a claim made by home care employers themselves.

“There isn’t enough money in the industry to pay back every dollar of what everybody is owed for missing meal breaks and rest breaks,” he said. “If the employers were pushed to pay back every penny, they would all go out of business.”

And then thousands of home care employees could be out of work, Ratner added.

The arbitrator on the case, Martin Scheinman, wrote in his decision that he was “particularly cognizant” of the need to avoid disrupting home care services for those who need them.

After reviewing financial documents provided by the home care employers, Scheinman decided that each agency must pay out $250 for each of their current or former employees covered by the arbitration case. Scheinman wrote that he was convinced that’s “the maximum that can be imposed without causing serious disruption and upheaval to a vital service.”

Under the arbitration decision, home health aides who worked 24-hour shifts stand to get more than $250 apiece. The $30 million awarded under the decision will be paid into a “special wage fund.” The majority of the money, 60%, will be set aside for just the small group of workers who have logged 24-hour shifts. The money will be divided up based on the number of shifts each aide worked.

On average, home health aides who worked those daylong shifts could get between $2,571 and $3,600 per person.

But some of those workers are owed more than $200,000, according to labor groups involved in the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign.

“1199 is suggesting that women of color and immigrant women be grateful for any meager crumbs they get,” the coalition said in a statement.

Some home care agencies said the only way they would be able to pay out more is with government assistance. Much of the 24-hour home care provided in New York is paid for by Medicaid, which is covered through state and federal funds. The state labor and health departments have taken steps in the past to reinforce the policy of paying workers for 13 hours of a 24-hour shift.

One of the home care providers covered by the decision is the nonprofit Chinese-American Planning Council.

The Chinese-American Planning Council “has always agreed that home care workers deserve greater compensation,” Wayne Ho, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a statement responding to the arbitration decision. “However, the only path to providing any backpay beyond what is required by law and the arbitrator's decision would be for the state to do so, as it would be impossible for Medicaid-funded nonprofit home care agencies.”

Neither the state Department of Health nor the state Department of Labor has responded to a request for comment on the arbitration decision.

It’s unclear whether home care workers who are upset by the outcome of the arbitration have any recourse moving forward. Many of those covered by the decision initially sought full compensation for 24-hour shifts in court by filing class-action lawsuits against their employers. But the union 1199SEIU put clauses in its contracts with home care agencies that required those cases to be privately arbitrated instead.

Workers’ attempts to move certain lawsuits back to the courtroom were unsuccessful.

Outside of the arbitration case, a handful of workers have had more luck. Recently, home care workers on 24-hour shifts who are not represented by 1199SEIU reached a settlement on a similar case with their employer, Scharome Cares. The Brooklyn-based agency agreed to pay six workers a total of $600,000 — an outcome grassroots labor advocates celebrated.