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  • The U.S. Capitol seen here behind a snow pile in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2019.

    The U.S. Capitol seen here behind a snow pile in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 January 2019

Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal promise to advocate for a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

A delegation of domestic workers visited the Capitol Wednesday to meet with members of the U.S. Congress to make a case for the institution of a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

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Just a few weeks after the formation of the new Congress, the National Alliance of Domestic Workers (NADW) called on legislators to instate federal rights for the benefit of the group, which represents more than two million people; mostly women.

California Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. House of Representatives from Washington Pramila Jayapal promised NADW leaders that, with the new position of Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, the lawmakers will be able to implement a legislative project for labor rights.

"When we talk about the voices of the vulnerable, we do not refer to weak people. These women are people with great strength who now demand the rights and dignity they deserve," Harris stated and commented that "many families' life cannot be understood without the domestic workers' strength and labor."

"Over two million women care for our nation’s homes and families... Nannies, home health care workers, and housekeepers have historically been excluded from basic labor protections. Without these protections, many domestic workers tolerate low or no pay, no health care or retirement security, sexual harassment, and other abusive and exploitative situations," Julie Kashen, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, explained, adding that "this workforce disproportionately composed of women of color and immigrants often faces systemic barriers, including our broken immigration system, that keep them from exercising their rights."

Harris and Jaypal hope to debate the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights in Congress during the current legislative period.

"Now we have the majority and we are going to move this legislation. It is not a democratic aspiration, it is something positive for everyone," Jaypal said.

Currently, eight states and a city have included legislative protections for NADW, which is now putting pressure on national political representatives to push for the approval of a similar regulation for other parts of the country.

The executive director of the Brazilian Work Center, Natalia Tracy, compared the organization's struggle with labor protection advances that were successfully lobbied during President Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration (1933-1945).

"We have to create a framework of basic rights... [which] many domestic workers still do not have," Tracy said.

NDWA Director Ai-jen Poo is hopeful the legislative initiative will be approved since "the demand for domestic work is growing" and workers demand to work in dignified conditions.

"We are serious about this and we have to make ourselves heard," exclaimed Poo, an activist who accompanied film director Alfonso Cuaron for the Golden Globe's presentation of the film 'Roma', which tells the story of an Indigenous woman who labors as a domestic worker for a middle-class family.

"According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, most domestic workers earned about US$11 an hour and rarely receive benefits like health insurance or pension plans," The Slot reported.

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