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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today marks the 19th annual National Day of Protest To Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. It also marks the 74th day since Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson. It has been 74 days since Leslie McSpadden hugged her son.

When unarmed Brown was shot down on August 9, I, like many Black people across the country, cried out in horror and rage. Only a few days before, unarmed Eric Garner was killed by NYPD officers. And Ted Wafer was found guilty of murdering unarmed Renisha McBride in Michigan. The lives of those of us who are poor and Black show us the fissures in America’s promise. In the land of the free, too many of us do not enjoy the freedoms promised.

First a whisper, and then a shout: Black lives matter.

A few weeks after Michael Brown’s death, as the media and the National Guard were leaving Ferguson, I arrived in St. Louis to work with local community members who yearn to end the troubling practice of extrajudicial killings. I also joined nearly 600 Black people from across the country for a Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson.

Pope's tweet opens window to an invisible workforce

Juana Flores, co-director of NDWA member Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and former NDWA board-chair of the National Domestic Worker Alliance, published this op-ed in the National Catholic Reporter.

Yesterday Pope Francis tweeted: “May we be always more grateful for the help of domestic workers and caregiver; theirs is a precious service.”  With one simple message in honor of St. Martha, the patron saint of cooks and housekeepers, the pope encouraged the world to care for the workers who care for us everyday.

Governor Patrick signs Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law

Governor Patrick signed into law a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on Wednesday, making Massachusetts the fourth state in the country to provide protections for nannies and housekeepers that most employees at companies take for granted.

Under the new law, in-home workers will have basic labor protections including more clearly defined working hours and tasks, as well as freedom from sexual harassment, trafficking, and retaliation for complaining about wage violations.

“It’s been a long road for domestic workers,’’ said Monica Halas of Greater Boston Legal Services, one of the leaders of the coalition to secure rights for domestic workers. “We’ve been really waiting since the 1930s to secure these rights.’’

Massachusetts follows New York, California, and Hawaii in enacting such a law. There are about 60,000 domestic workers in the Commonwealth, according to the coalition. Most are women, and many are immigrants and minorities.

6 Groups That Are Reinventing Organized Labor

Since 2007, NDWA has worked to organize nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers — many of whom work in a one-or-two-employer/one-employee relationship, behind closed doors in private homes.

Mariana Viturro, deputy director of the nonprofit organization, told ThinkProgress that alliance has focused on “worker-led grassroots campaigns.”

“A lot of the success has been having workers share stories with legislators, really lifting up their voices through a communications strategy that’s been most effective way to get bills through,” she said. By advocating for state-level bills of rights for domestic workers — first in predominantly progressive states like California, Hawaii, and New York — the 10,000-plus members have been able to “legislate terms of employment that other workers are able to bargain for through contracts,” by effectively “bargaining with the state on setting some standards for domestic work.” Their efforts include not only ensuring basic rights (like paid leave), but also shifting cultural perceptions regarding the value of work. 

Massachusetts Nannies and Housekeepers Now Protected From Long Days, Abuse, Sexual Harassment

Life’s about to get a little better for about 67,000 nannies, housekeepers and other in-home workers in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is on track to become one of just four states to pass a Bill of Rights for the workers who are closest to us, yet often the least visible.

How Women Are Shaping the Labor Movement and Winning Big

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, guaranteeing overtime pay to employees—the vast majority of whom are women—who provide care in homes across the state. The organizing that led to the win was spearheaded by affiliates of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which has said this new law “will put millions of dollars in the pockets of immigrant women and women of color laboring as domestic workers.”

Old, Poor and Undocumented: Immigrants Face Grim Golden Years

[...] Nina, 74, a home caregiver in Los Angeles who asked to be referred to by nickname only, has worked and paid income and payroll taxes for most of the nearly 14 years she’s lived in the United States. “I’m totally transparent about my work,” she says about the approximately $30,000 she earns each year often working six-day weeks on shifts that can last as long as 16 hours.

Nina finds jobs through a private homecare company, and her work often includes inserting feeding tubes and catheters for clients, bathing them, and lifting them into bed.

Sometimes, she says, employers are outright exploitative. Nina was recently hired to care round-the-clock for an 80-year old woman who told her that she would have to spend nights sleeping on the floor in the living room. After putting her client to bed after the 11 p.m. news, Nina walked the dog. Then after sleeping for six hours on the carpet, she woke to help her client start her day. Nina was paid $100 a day, about $5.50 for each waking hour, $2.50 below the hourly minimum wage in California.

“I think I’ll be doing this forever,” Nina says in clear English she learned when she lived in the Philippines.

Rising Voices for a New Economy

Last month, thousands of activists from across the country gathered in Washington DC for the National People's Action Conference. The conference, dubbed "Rising Voices for a New Economy" was an opportunity for activists and organizers from around the country to meet, share their stories and plan strategies for creating an economy based on economic, racial, immigrant and environmental justice.

Read more at »

State senate passes domestic workers’ bill of rights

The state senate on Thursday passed a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, moving the measure closer to becoming law and giving nannies and house cleaners some of the same protections employees in other lines of work take for granted.

Under the bill, domestic workers would have more clarity about their work duties and wages, and would gain protections from sexual harrassment, trafficking and retaliation for asserting wage violations.

“We are thrilled that our bill has moved one step closer to becoming a law. Domestic workers can now come out of the shadows and create a more safe and secure workforce,” said Lydia Edwards on behalf of the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers.

Read more at »

Membership Assembly 2014

From April 25-28, over 500 domestic workers gathered for our largest-ever National Assembly in Washington, DC.

We celebrated our growth over the last seven years — to a strong national alliance with 44 members in 25 cities in 17 states. We celebrated our Bill of Rights victories in New York, California and Hawaii, and looked forward to new victories in Massachusetts, Illinois and Connecticut. We shared our experiences and explored strategy in workshops and panels. We elected a new Board of Directors, and, together with our allies National People's Action, we a ground-breaking conversation on the future of our economy featuring the real stories of domestic workers, family farmers, and communities across the country — the people who are made "invisible" by our current economy.

After a weekend of learning, visioning, and planning, we took our beautiful, powerful movement to the streets on Monday. Nearly 1,500 strong, domestic workers, mothers, low-wage workers and family farmers demanded that President Obama stop separating families and that Congress work for us — not the giant corporations lobbying for big tax breaks at the expense of our families.