Labor Protections are Long Overdue
My grandmother was a domestic worker, my mom hired nannies to help raise my brother, sister, and I, and as a working mom I employ childcare providers to take care of my own young daughters. I support AB 889, the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Campaign, because I value this vital, but often disrespected, work.
Domestic workers have been systematically excluded from many basic labor protections many of us take for granted. Domestic workers and farm workers were left out of the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930’s to appease Southern segregationists. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that African American domestic workers fought for and won inclusion in minimum wage protections. But since then, not much has changed.
Why do we need this bill? Mayra worked as a nanny for a middle-class family. She made the kids breakfast, lunch and dinner, she played with them, cleaned up after them. And every night after she put them to bed, she had to sleep on the floor of their room. Her employers said that way it would be easier for her to take care of the children if they woke up in the middle of the night. After about a year, Mayra left to find work elsewhere. She said it was difficult to leave because she loved those kids, but she couldn’t put up with the poor treatment and low wages any longer. Not every worker’s story is Mayra’s story. But every domestic worker is just as vulnerable. Mayra and other women like her came together with advocates who have worked on hundreds of cases of wage theft and human trafficking of domestic workers, to create a solution to abuses in the industry.
Not only is including domestic workers in labor laws the right thing to do, but many employers have stood up in support of AB889, a bill that provides clear, uniform standards on how to be a responsible employer. Caring for our children and our homes is such important work. It is time for these workers to get the recognition and respect they deserve.
This legislation would include domestic workers' in overtime protections, ensure they are covered by workers compensation if they get hurt on the job (already in your homeowners or rental insurance), and give them the right to on duty meal and rest breaks, i.e. the right to sit down for ten minutes, or have lunch while the kids are napping. No, this bill does NOT require you to hire someone else so that your nanny can leave for lunch, but you would be amazed at how many employers give their nannies endless lists of chores to do for every minute the children are sleeping or watching TV. The bill also ensures the right for live-in workers to use the kitchen, and get 8 hours sleep (except for emergencies) in adequate living conditions, so that women like Mayra will never have to sleep on the floor again. If you’re a good employer you are probably already providing these things.
I am proud to be a part of this historic campaign for a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights to honor my grandmother who did this work, in recognition of the women who helped raise me and my siblings, and out of respect for the women who will care for my daughters.