bill of rights for domestic workers set to succeed in california after years of organizing

by Tim Phillips

Society does not look at our work as important, but we know how important our work is. We take care of children from early in the morning to late at night. We clean houses from top to bottom. This is hard work, and it takes real skill.

This statement by Antonia Peña alludes to the exclusion of domestic workers from many of federal labor law’s protections, such as overtime pay and meal and rest breaks. For a large number of female migrants, domestic work is the only work available. The women who do this work become sophisticated, if they weren’t already, regarding exploitation and how to struggle against it. National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo explains:

The people who are at the frontlines of the impact of neoliberalism – sectors like migrant workers, domestic workers, the people who are being displaced from urban centers, unemployed workers in the rust belt – these are the people who really understand neoliberalism. Because of their experiences, they have a lot to say about what kind of movement we need to build.

In 2010, after six years of organizing to shed light on rampant abuses, New York became the first state to implement basic labor protections for domestic workers. In California, domestic worker organizations also started organizing approximately eight years ago, and they attempted to pass bills in 2006, 2011, and again this year. Yesterday the California bill passed the state Senate and today it passed the concurrence vote in the Assembly, putting it very close to success.

Even if you don’t live in California, please call Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841 and ask him to sign the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.