Domestic Uprising

Jessica Lee Feb 27, 2009

Women are stepping out from behind strollers and kitchen counters to fight for a bill of rights that would establish human rights and fair labor standards for the more than 200,000 domestic workers who are employed across New York state.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (A1470) passed through the New York State Assembly’s labor committee in early February and State Senate leaders appear to be poised to support the companion bill (S5235).

“New majority leadership seems to support the bill quite explicitly,” said Ai-Jen Poo, a lead organizer with Domestic Workers United (DWU). Poo said that Senate Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith described the bill as, “precisely the type of initiative that the new senate leadership is going to move.”

Domestic workers are one of the few professions unprotected by state and federal labor legislation. Isolated in the homes of their employers, nannies, caretakers and housekeepers suffer from abuse and lack of health insurance, sick days, overtime and severance pay.

DWU organizers say that domestic workers are the “invisible backbone” of New York City’s economy, that without their work, thousands of accountants, doctors, architects, bankers and those in the entertainment industry would be unable to work.

“The bill of rights would provide precisely the kind of safety net that domestic workers need in this time of [economic] crisis,” Poo said.

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