30 November 2010

It's the Law! Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Takes Effect

It's about time! As of November 29, 2010, nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in the State of New York will, at long last, be afforded the employment protections they deserve under the law. There is no doubt this is long-overdue: For more than 75 years, domestic workers have been explicitly excluded from federal laws meant to protect nearly every other worker in the country.

The result of years of hard work by Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United (DWU), the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights provides basic labor protections -- including overtime pay, one day of rest per week, paid leave and protection from discrimination and harassment -- to the more than 200,000 individuals who make up New York's domestic workforce. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, and was signed into law by outgoing Governor David Paterson on August 31, 2010.

The work, however, is far from over. Domestic Workers United is now engaged in ensuring rapid and sound implementation of the Bill of Rights, while also supporting the passage of similar legislation in other states through a partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance -- most recently in California,  Colorado and Massachusetts.

To guarantee that this important new law is implemented properly in New York, DWU is employing the collaborative, movement-building approach they’ve used all along: In partnership with the NY Department of Labor and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, DWU will soon launch a mass outreach campaign to educate workers and employers alike about their rights and responsibilities. And together with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Urban Justice Center, the group recently conducted a survey of over 500 domestic workers to assess what it takes to achieve on-the-job security and determined that collective bargaining is a necessary next step to ensure fair -- not just minimum -- standards. 

Finally, in 2011, DWU will begin training community representatives on the new law and negotiations; these advocates will be available in key neighborhoods throughout the city to act as first responders, making sure workers have the resources they need to defend and uphold their rights.

It sounds like a recipe for success to us... Congratulations to DWU and the many individuals and groups who worked in partnership to make today a reality; your efforts will make New York a better, more equitable place to work. Now let's see if the rest of the country will do the right thing and follow suit.

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