Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
Articles,  Blog

Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

They are the world’s forgotten workers. Domestic workers are mostly women and children,
mostly migrants, many of them undocumented, most of them anonymous. They are known only to the families who employ
them to care for children and perform household tasks, and to those they support with meagre
incomes and no guarantees of job security or protection at work. And many of the 52 million people age 15 and
up who make their primary living from domestic work have been forgotten by the world’s
policymakers. But in New York, a group of dedicated women
is changing that. “Do you have friends that work in the area?
No.” Deborah Cole is a nanny, and a member of an
association called Domestic Workers United or DWU. She finds domestic workers and tells
them about their rights guaranteed under the law. The DWU campaigned successfully for New York’s
Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a state law guaranteeing labour rights for domestic workers,
the first of its kind in the history of the United States. The DWU trains its members to reach out to
domestic workers and explain their rights under the law. It’s called the “Ambassadors”
program. [Deborah Cole, Ambassador, Domestic Workers
United] “Whether you are documented or undocumented,
the Labour Law states that once you are a worker, you are supposed to be paid.” The members are nannies, housekeepers and
caregivers, mostly from the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America. It’s a “peer educator”
approach that resonates well. By building relationships with key partners
such as community groups and trade unions, they successfully campaigned to make the Domestic
Workers Bill of Rights a state law in New York. Priscilla Gonzalez is director: [Priscilla Gonzalez, Domestic Workers United
Director] “This law, this domestic workers bill of
rights takes us out of the shadows and says our work is valued and worthy of respect and
protection under the law just like anyone else.” State Senator Diane Savino sponsored the bill
that led to the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights being passed into law. [Diane Savino, New York State Senator]
“Regardless of their status, regardless of how much money they earn, regardless of
whether they are here in this country as guests or whether they are here legally or illegally,
it doesn’t matter. Working people should be treated with dignity and justice, period.
And it’s in the interest of the State to make sure that happens”. Under their Bill of Rights, domestic workers
in New York are entitles to the same rights as other workers, such as a 40 hour week,
paid sick days and holidays. They are also now covered under New York’s anti discrimination
laws and can file grievances against their employers with the state Department of Labour. For the DWU, it’s all about raising awareness
– using the peer educator approach to let domestic workers know they have rights just
like everyone else in the workplace. [Dolores Wright, Nanny]
“Now we are out of the shadow. We are recognized now. We are not only the woman pushing the
stroller in the park, taking care of your elderly Mom or grandmother or cleaning your
house or walking your dog. We are recognized now as real workers.” The DWU’s successful campaign to pass the
Bill of Rights in New York is now being tried out in California and in other states, another
step towards ensuring that the world’s forgotten workers are forgotten no longer.

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