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

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work