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Q&A with Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter

Alicia Garza is the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter. Here she discusses her work with marginalized communities and why inclusion is an essential aspect of any society.

Please speak a little about your background. How did you end up working with the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance?

Women, Black Groups Mark 5 Years of Arizona Immigration Law

For organizers like Celeste Faison, the fight for civil rights isn't limited to the U.S.-born black community. It also extends to immigrants who experience hardships caused by what she sees as the nation's broken immigration system.

"Our struggles are not necessarily the same in every aspect, but our experiences are similar," said Faison, who is the black organizing coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Faison was among the group of women who traveled to Arizona on Wednesday to discuss how immigrants in Arizona - especially women - are affected by immigration laws, including the state's controversial SB 1070. The trip came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the signing of SB 1070, which allows police officers to question the immigration status of individuals who they believe are in the country illegally.

The law was challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck many of its provisions, but upheld the provision on questioning individuals about their status when reasonable suspicion exists, which some referred to as the "Show Me Your Papers" provision.

Nannies, Aides For Elderly Push For Labor Law Protections

HARTFORD — Nannies, maids, gardeners, personal chefs, chauffeurs and caregivers for the elderly are asking Connecticut to change labor laws to require that they be paid at least the minimum wage.

Currently, domestic workers and farm workers are excluded from federal laws that established the right to a minimum wage and to overtime.

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Natalacia Tracy, a leader in getting Massachusetts to pass such a law, said Tuesday it's time for Connecticut to become the fifth state to expand protections for domestic workers.

"We are here asking for basic rights," she said at a press conference on the capitol steps. "The right to be paid for all the time you work."

In the last session, lawmakers voted to create a task force to study the issue, which Tracy serves on. She said she expects the task force to endorse this bill.

This year, the bill was passed out of the labor committee and is awaiting a vote on the floor.

A Unitarian minister and Yale law student also spoke out for domestic workers.

City Rallies For Domestic Workers Rights

With a few quick flourishes, Mayor Toni Harp signed off on a city resolution that urges the state to pass laws protecting its 40,000 domestic workers.

She was joined in City Hall by four domestic workers, their advocates, and Alders Darryl Brackeen, Richard Furlow and Andrea Jackson-Brooks, who drafted and supported the Board of Alders Resolution. The resolution will head next to the Connecticut General Assembly, urging delegates to pass laws that offer domestic workers labor protection, sick days and workers’ compensation.

After domestic workers testified before the Human Services Committee of the Board of Alders in early March, the committee voted to support the proposal. Though politicians have been working on this issue for years, this is the first time that a “major city like New Haven had these discussions and passed these types of resolutions” in Connecticut, Brackeen said. “It’s a big deal.”

As baby boomers continue to age, domestic workers will be more and more in demand, Mayor Harp said, and should have access to legal protection. They are an “essential part of the aging equation,” she said.

Domestic Workers Rally For Rights At Capitol

They take care of children and the elderly and are trusted to clean homes, but domestic workers are not protected by Connecticut labor laws most of us take for granted.

Natalicia Tracy, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center, said domestic workers have been excluded from Connecticut’s labor laws for 75 years. But she hopes that’s about to change.

The legislature is debating a bill that would afford these workers some basic rights. The bill would require them to be paid minimum wage. It would also require them to get paid for all the hours they work and protect them from discrimination and harassment.

“Domestic workers should have the rights of all other workers,” Tracy said Tuesday at a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.

Tracy said domestic workers are especially vulnerable to harassment because they often work alone in the home of the person who employs them.

Harp signs onto domestic workers’ rights movement

Flanked by over 20 workers’ rights activists, Mayor Toni Harp signed a resolution in support of a state Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Monday afternoon at City Hall.

Domestic workers, whose responsibilities range from cleaning to housekeeping to childcare, are currently excluded from Connecticut’s anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws. The DWBOR, which received support from the Board of Alders at a Feb. 26 hearing, would remove this exclusion and also grant domestic workers basic protections, including minimum wage entitlement, termination provisions and restrictions on maximum working hours. Advocates hope to pass the bill by early June, which marks the end of this year’s legislative cycle.

“In 2015, many domestic workers are immigrant women who have had few options, with language and cultural barriers preventing equal footing with employers,” Harp said at the event. “The resolution signed today underscores our unified determination here in New Haven to have our legislators in Hartford act to protect the basic workers’ rights of domestic workers.”

Roll Back Low Wages: 9 Stories of New Labor Organizing in the United States

In this study, labor journalist Sarah Jaffe, whose writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Nation, and In These Times and who works as co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, examines this series of low-wage workers’ movements that has gained strength in recent years for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Including fast food strikes and the fight for a $15 minimum wage; retail, grocery store, restaurant, and taxi workers; Carwasheros, domestic and home care workers, and those living in the U.S. under guestworker visas; Jaffe explores how these movements overlap and connect.

Jaffe explores the impact that low-wage workers’ movements are playing in revitalizing labor, and indeed much of the left, creating alliances and waging offensive battles at a time when too much of the progressive community has been stuck playing defense. They are doing everything they can to ensure that the defeat of precarity, and not its continuance, will be the most important trend in the U.S economy in the years to come.

Click on the link below to download a pdf of the study.

Mass. leads on protecting rights for domestic workers

LAST SUMMER, Massachusetts became the fourth state in the nation to enact a bill of rights for domestic workers, establishing labor standards and granting basic protections to nannies, housekeepers, and other in-home caregivers. The law, which went into effect on April 1, is broader in scope than similar laws in California, New York, and Hawaii. As other states consider cracking down on what essentially is an unregulated underground economy, Massachusetts’ leadership, by empowering domestic workers, stands out and deserves praise.

With New Protections Tied Up in the Courts, Home Health Care Workers Aren't Waiting Around

Almost two years after the Obama administration extended historic labor protections to the nation’s 1.79 million home healthcare workers, those new rights remain in limbo. In September 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced plans to amend a longstanding regulation that has excluded them from earning the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, and compensation for travel on the job. For home healthcare workers in the United States—a group that is nearly 90 percent female—this move marked a significant step towards setting a floor of decent labor standards.

But the rule-change, which was set to go into effect on January 1st, now faces a challenge in federal court, and critics say state legislators are using the ongoing litigation as an excuse to avoid implementing the new protections. At the same time, given that most home healthcare workers are paid through Medicaid and Medicare—two underfunded public programs—many also worry that states will respond to the rule-change by curtailing consumers’ access to quality care. Activists across the country are working to pressure their lawmakers to reckon with these new standards and avoid potential calamity. . . .

Domestic worker law goes into effect today

A new law protecting the rights of domestic workers became law Wednesday, a measure that could help improve the lives of thousands of people who care for children and clean homes, many of them women immigrants.

The law took years of work by local and national advocates for domestic workers, who will celebrate its adoption at an event in Boston Wednesday night. But enforcement of the law is just beginning, and it is tricky territory for workers, employers, and government officials.

“The law and these regulations make clear that domestic workers have rights just like employees in more traditional workplaces,’’ Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey said in a statement. “These regulations acknowledge the unique environments these workers are employed in and reinforce the responsibilities employers have for ensuring those rights are protected.”

Healey has filed draft regulations today to support the law, outlining her office’s authority to investigate violations and enforce the law.

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