After six years of organizing by domestic workers together with unions, employers, clergy and community organizations, the New York State Legislature passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on July 1, 2010. Domestic workers were finally recognized as real workers under the law!
The bill was a historic victory. For the first time in any state, domestic workers were included in all of the major labor laws protecting other workers. This includes: overtime pay at time and a half your regular rate of pay, a minimum of one day of rest per week, protection from discrimination and harassment and inclusion of part-time workers in disability laws.
Why the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights is Good for
The bill established a mandatory minimum of at least three paid days leave per year. Because New York is an employment at will state, workers do not receive paid leave, unless you have a contract that states otherwise. Domestic workers pushed legislators to understand the specific challenges to negotiation in the domestic setting and set a new precedent where minimum standards for domestic workers include paid days off.
The bill paved the way for a new labor movement by forcing a debate about existing structures for collective bargaining. Included in the bill was a mandate to the Department of Labor to study the feasibility and specific challenges to collective bargaining for domestic workers under the current state and federal labor-relations laws. This was the first study of its kind.
We — working-class immigrant women of color — are inspiring other workers and communities everywhere to continue organizing. Throughout the country and around the world, other low-wage workers, women and oppressed communities have been encouraged by this win to fight. With this victory, we have demonstrated that even in times of economic crisis and anti-immigrant sentiment, we can achieve major victories that change the course of history for working-people through organizing.
The fight for the New York Domestic Worker Bill of Rights was not easy. Angelica Hernandez, a member of Domestic Workers United, traveled to Albany twenty-six times during the course of the campaign; each trip to Albany is a 12-14 hour day. In addition to Domestic Workers United, members of all of the New York Domestic Workers Justice Coalition groups – Adhikaar for Human Rights, Unity Housecleaners, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers – rallied, marched, attended meetings and mobilized during the six year-long effort. The commitment and leadership of domestic workers inspired thousands to join the campaign.
Read more about the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights on the New York State Department of Labor website.