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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. 

A Study of Home Help Finds Low Worker Pay

Nannies, caregivers and housecleaners earn a median wage of about $10 an hour, and few receive benefits like health insurance or paid sick days, according to the first-ever national statistical study of domestic workers, which is being released on Tuesday.

The study, based on interviews with 2,086 workers in 14 major metropolitan areas, found substantial differences in pay across ethnicity, immigration status and whether the worker lived with her employer.

The report found that the median wage for nannies was $11 an hour, compared with a $10-an-hour median for caregivers and housecleaners. But 23 percent of the workers earned less than their state’s minimum wage, which varies but must be at least the federal level of $7.25 an hour. Domestic workers are generally not covered by federal or state minimum wage laws.

Activists bolster political causes with ‘The Help’ and ‘A Better Life’

Washington Post

The golden statuettes have been stowed, the red carpet rolled up, the borrowed designer baubles returned, but a determined band of movie crusaders is working frantically to make this Oscar moment last forever. They include nannies, house cleaners, immigrant day laborers and savvy activists who are seizing a PR opportunity scripted by Hollywood.

When Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Minny in “The Help,” women attending Oscar-watching parties across the country broke into cheers of “We are ‘The Help.’ ” Those parties were organized by theNational Domestic Workers Alliance, which is using the film internally to build spirit and self-esteem, and externally in political lobbying campaigns.

The pinch-me feeling of seeing people like themselves sympathetically portrayed will not wear off soon, say the nannies. It was almost as if their lives and struggles were up for Academy Awards.

Activists to Watch: Ai-jen Poo

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.

An Unfulfilled Dream From the March on Washington: Labor Rights for Domestic Work

Maria, an eldercare worker
Maria, a former domestic worker, talks about her experiences in San Francisco, Monday, May 5, 2008. Maria came to San Francisco to be a caregiver for a family from her hometown in southern Mexico. The family paid her way here, illegally, then kept her in a house for a year, where she cared for a 78-year-old wheelchair-bound woman. They paid her $300 a month but sent her check directly to her family, so she never had any money. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Fifty years ago on August 28, thousands of protesters descended on Washington, DC. The protest is colloquially known as the March on Washington, but it’s worth remembering its full name: “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” In fact, the economic repression people of color experienced played a central role in galvanizing the march and in the demands the marchers made.

At AFL-CIO convention: A diverse crowd, long journeys, high hopes

A delegation of domestic workers from NDWA is attending the AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, along with our allies from the International Domestic Workers Network.

... In particular, there is an attempt to attract and to elevate the status of domestic workers in the U.S. as a potential source of future strength and influence. That effort includes bringing together international domestic worker leadership from as far away as South Africa and Hong Kong.

"We are hoping that trade union leaders around the world will begin to recognize domestic workers as equals so that we can all fight together," said Elizabeth Tang, 55, coordinator of the International Domestic Workers Network. Tang came to the convention from Hong Kong.

Myrtle Witbooi of Capetown, South Africa, chair of Tang's organization, said she came to emphasize the fact that "domestic workers are just like any other workers, and deserving of the same rights and respect."

Witbooi said another goal was to build support for C189, the international Convention of rights concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Bill making domestic workers eligible for overtime passes Legislature

SACRAMENTO -- A measure to make housekeepers, private healthcare aides and other domestic workers eligible for overtime pay cleared the Legislature on Thursday.

The measure, known as the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, won final approval in the Assembly on a 48-25 vote. It now heads to the Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

Brown vetoed a similar bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) last year.

This year's version, also by Ammiano, would make domestic workers eligible for overtime if they work more than nine hours a day or 45 hours a week. Provisions to require meal breaks and rest periods for domestic workers were dropped from the bill.

Read the rest of the article at latimes.com »

Brought to the US to teach; Working as a Domestic to pay off debts: Why California Needs to Pass AB 241

The International Domestic Workers' Network (IDWN) was formed in 2006 to work for basic rights and protections for those who clean homes, care for the sick and look after the elderly and the young in homes around the globe. In 2011, this international coalition of domestic workers' groups helped pass the first-ever International Labor Organization Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C. 189) which has since been ratified by 11 countries. In recognition of this achievement the AFL-CIO presented its 2013 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to the IDWN at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention. It was the first time a delegation of domestic workers had ever been invited to participate in the annual convention.

Domestic worker Lourdes Balagot-Pablo and Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the US, spoke with GRITtv soon after the award ceremony in Los Angeles.

California State Senate Passes a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

California could soon become the third state to implement a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, ensuring that the state’s domestic workers are entitled to labor protections that many take for granted. The State Senate voted yesterday to pass AB 241, which guarantees overtime protections for workers such as housekeepers, childcare providers and caregivers for people with disabilities and the elderly. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a previous version of the legislation.

Groups such as the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the National Domestic Workers Alliance responded to the veto last year by intensifying their push for the law with demonstrations on the capitol, phone-ins and a “Drive for Dignity” from San Diego to Sacramento. Across the country, New York and Hawaii have already passed similar protections, and efforts are underway for states such as Massachusetts and Illinois to follow suit.

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