WASHINGTON – National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) President Ai-jen Poo joined U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), actor and Hand in Hand member Steve Way, New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Land, and domestic workers June Barrett and Ingrid Vaca for a Zoom press conference this morning to emphasize the urgent need for Congress to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 4826), legislation that will protect nannies, housecleaners, and home care workers from on-the-job discrimination and harassment.
Poo, who is slated to testify in support of the bill tomorrow during a hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said, “Our nation’s nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers do the work inside of our homes that helps make it possible for millions of working parents and family caregivers to go to work in their respective professions. At the National Domestic Workers Alliance, we’re proud to be part of a long tradition of domestic workers who have organized and fought to be seen as the professionals they are. Literally tens of thousands of women – women of color, immigrant women, and domestic workers around the country – shared their stories, lobbied, organized, marched, and mobilized to make this moment possible and ensure that the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act would be introduced and supported by more than 100 co-sponsors. This is the moment for federal action, and we are looking forward to making our case at the hearing tomorrow.”
“Despite the essential nature of this work, we continue to witness an abject failure from Congress to give domestic workers equal protection under the law because of racist exclusions in labor law,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “Our domestic workers deserve better. It’s time they have the same rights as every single worker out there. With my bill, domestic workers will finally be able to enjoy basic protections like overtime pay, guaranteed rest and meal breaks, and time off. It will also set up a hotline that workers can use to report unsafe working conditions and harassment. We will finally give our domestic workers the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is national legislation that ensures domestic workers are included in common workplace laws while creating new protections and stronger ways to enforce them. This legislation is coming at a critical time for working women. The pandemic not only showed us how essential care is to keep our society and economy going, it highlighted the precarious nature of work that domestic workers – disproportionately Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous women and immigrant women – face everyday. Our elected leaders have an opportunity to ensure that care jobs are good jobs. The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is a critical step in making that possible.
“Rarely do you hear about the physical abuse that domestic workers experience – but it happened to me when I worked as a live-in caregiver for an older man. For three months, I was sexually harassed and assaulted every day,” said June Barrett, a domestic worker from Florida. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone. It is past time that Congress extend basic workplace protections to nannies, housecleaners, and home care workers like myself. If we had laws that protected domestic workers from physical and sexual abuse at their workplaces, we could ensure the safety and economic well-being of millions of workers across the nation.”
“Domestic workers do the hard work to take care of others, but unfortunately we don’t get the same care and respect. We face abuse and hardship, and sexual harassment on the job is very common,” said Ingrid Vaca, a house cleaner from Virginia. “I once had a client who offered to pay me $100 to have sex with him. When I told him to show me respect, he laughed and told me I was causing problems. I was forced to leave that job and I never went back, even though I needed the money to pay my bills. But many workers who face harassment and wage theft don’t have the choice to leave. They stay at jobs that might be unsafe because they have to take care of their families, pay bills, and put food on the table. It’s time Congress recognize our essential work and give us the protections we need to live full lives.”
If passed, the legislation, which Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) have also introduced in the Senate, would:
Ensure domestic workers have paid sick leave to take care of themselves or their families.
Extend civil rights protections, including against workplace harassment, to domestic workers.
Afford domestic workers the right to meal and rest breaks.
Establish written agreements to ensure clarity on roles and responsibilities.
Protect against losing pay due to last minute cancellations.
“Home care workers are an essential workforce providing millions of people with disabilities and older adults with the care that they need to survive, live, and age with dignity, which is why it is so important that they have the same workplace protections as other health care workers like doctors and nurses,” said actor and Hand in Hand member Steve Way. “Every day I hear stories from people in the disabled community that are having to sleep in their wheelchairs, would not be able to use the bathroom, or go without meals, all because they can’t find home care workers. Nobody should have to suffer or live in fear of injury or death because of lack of care. We can easily solve this crisis by making home care jobs good jobs.”
“I worked as a maid for a cleaning company in the Skagit Valley, just north of Seattle, Washington. After taxes, gas, and washing my rags every week at a laundromat, it came out to about six bucks an hour,” said author Stephanie Land. “My job offered absolutely no sick pay or vacation days, no days off at all and no foreseeable increase in wage – and yet I was always begging for more hours and to work more. As we see the cost of living increasing to the point that people cannot afford rent at the wages that they’re making and they can’t afford to stay home sick with their families, I would urge you all to push forward this bill.”
For more information, or to schedule an interview with Ai-jen Poo, please reach out to valeria@precisionstrategies.