On the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the MA Coalition for Domestic Workers says “Extend fair labor standards to all!”
6.25.2013 | MA Coalition for Domestic Workers
Today, Tuesday June 25th marks the 75th anniversary of the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This Act, also referred to as the Wages and Hours Bill, is a federal statute that protects fundamental workers’ rights, such as minimum wage and overtime, and was signed into law following years of organized pressure from labor.
Unfortunately, domestic workers were excluded from many of the basic protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act due to the lobbying efforts of U.S Southern Democrats who sought to exclude what was at the time a predominantly black low-wage farm and domestic workforce.
Today, despite being professionals who do real work everyday, many domestic workers work without access to health care, paid sick days or paid time off.
Fortunately for us in the Commonwealth, Massachusetts state law does guarantee domestic workers minimum wage and overtime protections. In reality however, domestic workers often earn less than this minimum wage because “working time” is not clearly defined. And because of their unique workplace inside other people’s homes, the struggles domestic workers face are largely out of the public spotlight. Working long hours for low pay in private settings, domestic workers remain uniquely vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, discrimination, sexual harassment, and unsafe working conditions. Hence the proposed MA Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights being pushed by the MA Coalition for Domestic Workers (MCDW).
The Bill of Rights, No. 882 in the Senate and No. 1750 in the House, is a piece of legislation that amends Massachusetts state labor law to eliminate the exclusion of domestic workers from protections in the Massachusetts discrimination laws, defines “working time,” and guarantees basic work standards and protections, including meal and rest breaks, limited vacation and sick days, parental leave, notice of termination, and protection from sexual harassment, illegal charges for food and lodging, and invasion of privacy.
“As a long time caregiver and community confidant, I have experienced and helped other workers through everything from excessively long hours without pay to chronic back injuries without access to care,” Lillian Gia, a caregiver and organizer with coalition member MataHari: Eye of the Day said. “The bill is the solution we have all been waiting for,” she commented.
The MCDW hopes to change the reality of Massachusetts domestic workers, who are central to the Massachusetts economy. Nannies, caregivers, house-cleaners and housekeepers free other working professionals to participate in the labor force while ensuring the health, care and prosperity of Massachusetts families.
“We are working together to win the protection and recognition that this essential American workforce deserves,” stated Natalicia Tracy, coalition member and Executive Director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center. “The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights is a necessary step towards gaining such recognition,” she added.
Domestic workers themselves are centrally involved in the struggle to pass the Bill. “I am very proud of the work I do, and think it should be respected,” commented Ana Perdomo, a domestic worker from the Dominican Republic who is organizing other workers to support the Bill. Participating organizations in the MA Coalition include the Dominican Development Center; the Brazilian Immigrants Center; the Brazilian Women’s Group; the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development and MataHari: Eye of the Day.
To support the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and learn more about the domestic workers’ rights movement, please contact MCDW Media coordinator Magalis Troncoso at (857) 719 – 9055 // firstname.lastname@example.org or MA Campaign Coordinator Francesca Contreras at (617) 584 8092 // email@example.com.