activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: domestic workers bill of rights

hawaii is second u.s. state to implement basic labor protections for domestic workers

Domestic workers are excluded from many of the most basic federal labor protections, such as overtime pay and meal and rest breaks. In 2010, after six years of organizing, New York became the first state to implement basic labor protections for domestic workers. In California, domestic worker organizations also started organizing approximately nine years ago, but last year Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill of rights for domestic workers that would have enacted major protections for tens of thousands of people.

Today Hawaii will become the second state to pass a domestic workers bill of rights. The protections will take effect immediately. The National Domestic Workers Alliance, a membership organization of housekeepers, nannies, and home health assistants, most of whom are undocumented immigrant women, praised Hawaii for passing the law and is demanding similar legislation in other states. According to a May 2 article on ThinkProgress,

survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 20 percent of housekeepers and nearly a third of nannies and caregivers make less than the minimum wage. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the domestic workforce is paid less than $13 an hour. Forty percent of nannies and caregivers work more than 40 hours, yet 85 percent aren’t guaranteed overtime pay. About 20 percent of domestic workers report being threatened, insulted, or verbally abused by their employers, a figure that rises to 36 percent for live-in workers, yet they have little recourse to report and address abuse.

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2012 posts

NDAA: On January 13, a group of journalists and activists sued President Obama regarding the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which Obama signed on December 31, 2011. Four months later, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted a preliminarily injunction barring enforcement of the NDAA section that allows indefinite detention of anyone who has “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” Another four months passed before Judge Forrest granted a permanent injunction barring enforcement of that section; but the U.S. government appealed, and in October the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the government’s motion for a stay of Forrest’s injunction pending a decision on the government’s appeal. Meanwhile, the NDAA of 2013 could further expand the government’s power to hold people in military detention indefinitely.

RNC: The 2012 Republican National Convention protests were surprisingly calm. According to an August 31 New York Times article, no one broke windows, no tear gas filled the air, and only two people were arrested:

The lack of disturbances stood in stark contrast to the last three Republican conventions, when street battles between the police and protesters resulted in numerous arrests and prompted a flurry of court fights about police actions.

The number of protesters at this year’s RNC was smaller than expected due in part to Hurricane Isaac, the storm that caused Republican officials to cancel most proceedings scheduled for the first day of the convention.

Domestic Workers Bill of Rights: California Governor Jerry Brown displayed a lack of empathy predictable only among politicians by vetoing a bill of rights for domestic workers on September 30. Michelle Chen, a contributing editor at In These Times, describes what exactly Brown axed:

The highly anticipated Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would have enacted major protections for tens of thousands of housekeepers, nannies and other caregivers and closed loopholes ignored by federal labor law. It would have extended California’s policies for overtime pay and workers’ compensation, and helped ease in-house workers’ arduous, sometimes-abusive work routines by providing for a set amount of sleep and the ability to cook one’s own food.

Tim DeChristopher: After serving 15 months in prison, Utah climate activist Tim DeChristopher was admitted to a halfway house in Salt Lake City at the end of October. The local First Unitarian Church offered him a job with its social justice ministry. Yet a Bureau of Prisons official said he couldn’t work at the church because the job involved social justice, which was related to DeChristopher’s crime; so he accepted a job at a bookstore instead.

Pussy Riot: Two of the three infamous members of the punk collective Pussy Riot are now serving the rest of their two-year sentences at some of the harshest women’s penal colonies in Russia. (An appeals court released the third woman on bail in October.) They were transported there around October 23. According to an October 29 New York Times post by Masha Gessen, discussing several recent incidents of political repression in Russia,

Anyone can be arrested for legal, peaceful protest — and any one of those arrested can be chosen, at random, to spend days, months or years in prison.

One month later, on November 29, a Moscow court ruled that videos of Pussy Riot performances fell under a law meant to control hate speech. The New York Times reported the following:

The court called for limiting public access to Web sites and blogs displaying the videos. But the ruling is unlikely to cut off access to them, since it applies only to servers in Russia. … Thursday’s ruling cited “psycho-linguistic research” proving that the videos “humiliate various social groups based on their religious beliefs” and contain “hidden calls to rebellion and nonsubmission to authority.”

Jeremy Hammond: After anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was put in solitary confinement for five days around the time Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska denied him bail. He has been incarcerated for more than nine months. A release from Anonymous subsequently reported that Judge Preska is married to a client of Stratfor, the very intelligence contractor whose servers Hammond allegedly gained access to, costing the company millions and focusing “worldwide attention on the murky world of private intelligence,” according to a November 2012 Rolling Stone article. Hammond’s attorneys are trying to get Preska removed as the judge in his case, because of her apparent bias.

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

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.