Philadelphia Domestic Workers Win a New Bill of Rights

By Cynthia Drayton
Nanny, Caregiver
 
I’ve been a domestic worker my whole life.

The conditions of domestic work are not new. These conditions don’t exist because domestic work is unskilled — it is highly skilled work — and they certainly don’t exist because domestic workers are “okay” with working this way. They exist because domestic work sits at the intersection of the issues of race, gender and immigration, and this work carries the legacy of generations of discrimination and devaluation.

Domestic work has always been considered “women’s work”, and as a result it is not valued as professional or skilled. Some of the first domestic workers were enslaved Black women, taking care of the families of slave-owners and their homes. And so, even as the domestic work profession grew, domestic workers continued to be undervalued, underpaid, and vulnerable to harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and unfair dismissal, with no recourse.

When the worker rights and protections of the New Deal were passed in the 1930s, domestic workers were specifically excluded from these rights as a concession to southern lawmakers. As a result, domestic workers have worked without the right to a minimum wage, without the right to overtime, without the right to form a union, and without protection from harassment and discrimination, for generations. And as the U.S. domestic workforce of more than 2 million workers is 90 percent women, disproportionately women of color and immigrants, domestic workers have remained some of the most vulnerable workers in the US.

But that is beginning to change. In Philadelphia, where I have worked for the last 15 years, nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance, part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have been organizing for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for more than a year. Last week, the bill was unanimously approved by Philadelphia City Council.

This bill is a historic piece of legislation that extends rights and protections to the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia, including requiring employers to provide benefits for domestic workers, so that people like me can take a day off when we are too sick to work, without suffering the financial impact of losing a day’s pay. When the bill goes into effect in six months, domestic workers in Philadelphia will have rights that they have never had before, changing the conditions of work for domestic workers for generations to come.

I love being a nanny. I love feeling energized with the kids, playing with them and teaching them. I know I make an impact on their lives, and I know that the families I work for rely on my contributions. I do the work that makes all other work possible. And I deserve to be respected at my workplace — which is others’ homes — and to receive the same rights and protections that other workers receive.

Because not everyone can be a doctor or a teacher, but most doctors and teachers need someone like me to take care of the work they leave behind in their home.

***

Reposted from Inequality.org

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work