Domestic Workers Get Rights!

Fantastically good news! Domestic workers — nannies, housekeepers and caregivers of the ill and elderly — have been granted some rights! Some paid holidays, sick days and vacations and some other rights that most of us take for granted have been passed by the NYS Senate. You can read the whole story in today’s New York Times article, For Nannies, Hope of Workplace Protection.

Last year, we had a fascinating visitor to the Workers’ Center, Joyce Gill-Campbell, an organizer for Domestic Workers United. Joyce had been speaking at Ithaca College, jamming meetings and travel into a tiny window of time, yet she came downtown for lunch to talk to us. Her vision of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights was inspiring but seemed almost unattainable, it was so far from the reality of life as a domestic.

If organizing is a challenge to coworkers laboring in the same location every day, imagine what it is like for women who live with their employers, isolated from family and social support networks. Frequently domestic workers are expected to be on-call 24/7. Privacy and free time for outside activities of any kind, let alone community organizing, can be virtually nonexistent.

Joyce told stories of women meeting at playgrounds, passing cards about the Domestic Workers United one to the other. Organizing was done via cellphone late at night. What was the goal? “Power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build a movement  to end exploitation and oppression for all.” In 2007 at the US Social Forum, DWU joined with others for form the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

DWU has worked for years to pass the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Congratulations to them, and to all of us, for their tireless work on behalf of mostly immigrant, mostly women workers.

They raise the children, clean the houses, care for those who need assistance. They deserve basic rights, too.

The Domestic Workers United also has a blog which you can read here.

Nanny photo above from June 3, 2010 New York Times article cited earlier.