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  • Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

    Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. | Photo: Twitter / @domesticworkers

Published 17 July 2019

The domestic workers in the U.S. don’t get overtime pay, minimum wage, compensations if injured on the job or unemployment benefits if they are fired.

Members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) of the United States met with 40 members of Congress Tuesday to discuss the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights introduced by Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal Monday.

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The domestic workers have been protesting their second class status. The housekeepers, nannies, caregivers are excluded from federal labor laws. They don’t get overtime pay, minimum wage, compensations if injured on the job or unemployment benefits if they are fired. 

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act seeks to amend federal labor laws to include domestic workers under its purview. It will also extend new benefits such as paid time off, written employment contract, and privacy protection. 

The workers earn an average wage of US$11.43 an hour, one of the lowest in the U.S. A quarter of them live in poverty. 

The new law would guarantee minimum wage, protection against racial and gender discrimination. Employers will also be required to pay if they cancel shift at the last minute. 

“[Domestic workers] provide essential care and support to aging parents, people with disabilities, children, and homes,” Harris said in a statement announcing the bill. “However, our nation’s domestic workers have not been afforded the same rights and benefits as nearly every other worker, and it’s time we change that.”

Among the co-sponsors of the bill, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met with the NDWA members and recounted how she was brought up her domestic worker mother. ​​​​​​​

June Barrett, a home health aide from South Florida said, “This will provide us with the respect, dignity, and recognition that we all deserve.”

According to an estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, domestic work is expected to be the fastest-growing occupation in the next decade in the U.S. Around 1.2 million new positions would be added to the country’s economy between 2016 and 2026. 

Their high demand does not rectify their low wage. The median salary for a home health aide in 2017 war US$23,000 slightly above poverty level of US$20,420. Around 88 percent of the workers don’t have paid time off or any kinds of benefits. They cannot even unionize. ​​​​​​​

In 2007 the domestic workers began organizing at the national level and launched the NDWA which currently represents 2 million nannies, housekeepers, and home care workers. The group has pushed for some changes at state levels. 

Nine states, namely, Oregon, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and the city of Seattle have passed laws protecting the domestic workers. 

The organization is now campaigning at the national level and recently Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Jaypal introduced the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.​​​​​​​

 
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