Monday, June 04, 2007

Support Domestic Workers' Bills of Rights

From Salty Femme:
June 5th is Blog for Domestic Workers day! The event is in conjunction with a massive Town Hall meeting and accountability session at Judson Memorial Church in New York City on Thursday, June 7th. Domestic Workers United (DWU), an organization of nannies, housecleaners, and elderly care givers, is pushing a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights through the state legislature in Albany. If passed, it would be the first legislation of its kind, guaranteeing basic rights to domestic workers in New York state. Domestic workers have been excluded from most federal and state labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act.

Read more about the action in New York here.

Last year, members of the California Household Workers' Coalition co-wrote Assembly Bill 2536, requiring overtime compensation for household workers and protecting them from employers who fail to pay workers or abuse them. The bill passed both houses of the California legislature but was vetoed by the Governator.

Domestic workers are singularly in need of protection. Working conditions of household workers were surveyed in 2004 by three grassroots organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mujeres Unidas Activas, the Women’s Collective of La Raza Centro Legal, and People Organized to Win Employment Rights.

From Race, Poverty & the Environment: A Journal for Social and Environmental Justice:
The surveys revealed that most Bay Area household workers typically support two adults and two children on average, but more than 80 percent of them do not earn enough to support a family of this size. One in three workers reported that in the last two months they had worked more hours than agreed. There were also claims that employers shame and bully their workers, so they are too intimidated to fight effectively for their rights. . . .
The surveys reflect the extreme marginalization experienced by domestic workers: More than 95 percent of the surveyed women attested to the dire need for better wages, safer workplaces, paid overtime, sick days, holidays, health benefits, and the right to unionize and protect their rights. Other concerns expressed included not being paid on time, or being paid less than the agreed amount. And almost 10 percent reported that they had been sexually harassed or experienced some sort of violence on the job, while about a third reported being insulted or threatened by employers.

Despite the overwhelming predominance of women among domestic workers and the thoroughly gendered nature of their work, mainstream feminists have paid shamefully little attention to these issues, perhaps because so much mainstream feminism is made possible by the exploitation of household workers. This is no excuse.

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