Activist Ai-jen Poo was on the TIME 100 list in 2012 when her organization fought for the rights of nannies and house cleaners in California. Today they can claim victory in that state and they have their sights on the rest.
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As advocates for domestic workers in the United States and around the world, we applaud the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York for the indictment of Indian consular officer Devyani Khobragade.
The indictment describes the life that domestic worker Sangeeta Richard was forced to endure in the Khobragade home -- working up to 109 hours per week for a wage that amounted to $1.42 an hour. The indictment alleges that Khobragade seized Ms. Richard's personal passport and refused to allow her to return to India, despite Ms. Richard's requests to go home. After Ms. Richard fled the Khobragade apartment, the indictment states that the defendant and her relatives harassed Ms. Richard's family. Sadly, while this kind of domestic worker abuse is not unique, criminal charges are rarely successful when the employer is a diplomat or international official.
Actress Misty Upham plays Johanna, a young Native American caregiver, in the film August: Osage County. She wrote this excellent piece about domestic work for The Daily Beast.
A the time when I received that life-changing phone call, I was paying my bills as a housecleaner. Any domestic worker will tell you that caring for people’s homes and families is important work, but it’s also physically and emotionally demanding work. There are good days and nice employers, who offer you ice water when you arrive on a hot summer day, a sandwich at lunchtime, cleaning products that aren’t too toxic, and respectful conversation. I am lucky that on that day, my boss was one of these employers, and actually to this day, among the best employers I’ve ever had. These individuals make you feel human, and there are many of them.
When is the last time you worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for total pay of $225? My guess is probably never.
But if you’re a live-in domestic worker taking care of children or an in-home worker caring for the elderly, you probably have an inkling of how this scenario plays out.
Barbara Young, 66, certainly does. Last night, Young — a former nanny who is now a voice for domestic workers nationwide as an organizer for the National Domestic Workers Alliance — was saluted as one of seven winners of the 2013 Purpose Prize. That’s the award given to amazing people over 60 by Encore.org, the San Francisco-based nonprofit aiming to help people pursue encore careers: second acts for the greater good.
EXCLUDED FROM many of the protections provided under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an estimated 800,000 to 2 million domestic workers in the U.S. face tremendous exploitation. Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is changing the tide for this 95 percent female workforce. Having celebrated legislative victories in New York, Hawaii, and California, Poo spoke to Marie Claire about what's next.
MARIE CLAIRE: What is your personal connection to this cause?
AI-JEN POO: My grandmother, who is 87, is able to have a vibrant life because a caregiver named Mrs. Sun supports her. Her work makes so much possible for our family, and I think the more we value people like Mrs. Sun, the healthier our society will be.
Measure would protect 67,000 across state, expand ability to file complaints
Sonia Soares was cleaning 45 houses a week. Sometimes customers insisted that she scrub floors on her hands and knees. One client actually kicked her out of the way one day, while she was scrubbing.
“I knew at that point that only I could fight for my dignity,’’ Soares told lawmakers Tuesday at a State House hearing on a proposed Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.
The bill, cosponsored by Representative Michael J. Moran, a Democrat from Brighton, and Senator Anthony W. Petruccelli, an East Boston Democrat, would provide basic protections for 67,000 nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers in the state. It would require, among other things, that people sign contracts with those caring for their children or their homes, agreeing on precise duties, pay, time off, sick time, and other matters.
BOSTON -- Domestic workers and their allies crowded a State House hearing on Tuesday to push for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Nearly 100 people attended the hearing, most wearing stickers from the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers. Many were women, and many were immigrants. Speaking to the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, they told stories of abuse, long hours, low pay and a lack of respect afforded to nannies and housecleaners.
Sonia Soares, of Lynn, has worked for 28 years cleaning homes, cooking, doing laundry and caring for elderly parents. “My colleagues and I clean up to 14 houses a day and still struggle to make ends meet,” Soares testified. “I personally have been slapped in the face, pushed, yelled at and sexually harassed.”
We're excited to announce that NDWA National Organizer Barbara Young has won the 2013 Purpose Prize.
From the prize announcement:
In 2001, when Barbara Young signed up for a nanny training class in New York City, she didn’t realize how it would set her on the path for her encore career. She simply thought taking a certificate program could help her acquire extra skills, like CPR. She took pride in her work looking after a six-week-old baby round the clock, and was thirsty for knowledge. “I figured it would be really good for me,” Young says.
After emigrating from Barbados, Young had found a job common to many immigrant women: taking care of someone else’s child. She’d already raised five kids of her own. By the time she signed up for the class, offered by Domestic Workers United (DWU), she had been working as a nanny for eight years. Her job involved caring for a child she adored. But it also demanded long hours for low pay and no benefits.
(Montevideo) – The founding of a global federation of domestic workers is a sign of the growing strength of the movement, and a key moment to assess progress for workers long excluded from basic labor protections, the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Human Rights Watch said today. There are an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide – the majority of whom are women and girls, and many of whom are migrants.
Labor leaders from more than 40 countries met in Montevideo from October 26 to 28 to establish the International Domestic Workers Federation to organize domestic workers worldwide, share strategies across regions, and advocate for their rights.
NDWA Director Ai-jen Poo was recently named one of 19 Young Activists Changing America by Moyers & Company
Like farmworkers, most of America’s 2.5 million domestic workers — nannies, housekeepers and caregivers — are not covered by federal wage, overtime, organizing and other labor laws. Many toil 12 to 15 hours per day and are paid less than $200 a week. So, it was a major milestone when New York state passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. At least 200,000 domestic employees, mostly immigrants, are now entitled to a 40-hour workweek with overtime pay, one day of rest per week and three days of paid time off after a year of employment. The law protects them against sexual harassment and entitles them to temporary disability benefits and unemployment insurance.