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

Members of Local 7798 achieve major goal with workplace violence policy

From the USW

Workers at Copper Country Mental Health Services in Houghton, Mich., obtained wage increases and pension improvements in their contract ratified earlier this year, but the benefit Local 7798 members were most proud of bargaining was language regarding workplace violence.

The contract committed the employer to appoint a committee, including two members of the local, to draft a workplace violence policy. Work quickly began on the policy, and just last week, the committee drafted and released its first clinical guideline focusing on responding to consumer aggression toward staff.

“We are so excited to have this go into effect,” said Unit Chair Rachelle Rodriguez of Local 7798. “This was a direct result of our last negotiating session.”

The guideline includes the definition of aggression and an outline of procedures, all of which will be reviewed yearly. And though this is just a first step in reducing the incident rates and harm of workplace violence in their workplace, it still is a big one for the local, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a collective bargaining agreement.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work