The New York State’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in November 2010, and has recently come to the attention of other states throughout the nation. This legislation granted domestic workers—which include nannies, caregivers and house cleaners—the right to receive overtime pay, one day of rest for every seven days worked, three paid rest days per year, the legal protections of the New York’s Human Rights Law, and a legal solution to those who experience sexual or racial harassment.
On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown of California vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in California, AB889. This stirred up much controversy. Many efforts have been made by the National Domestic Workers Alliance to demand the justice of domestic workers’ rights.
The passing of this legislation is important for the issue of immigration because domestic workers comprise of mainly immigrants. The effects of the decision concern domestic workers and their experiences as working individuals.
Many people in my family work as domestic workers. I have a relative that has been a domestic worker ever since she came to the United States from the Philippines in the late 80’s. When I was a child, I watched her labor through hours of work as a caregiver for an elderly woman. On top of that, she was responsible for caring for another elderly woman. Growing up, I have begun to realize how unfair it was for her to work such long hours; yet, it was difficult to comprehend because she was a worker in someone’s private home. The fact that she worked in a private home and was hired by the owner of the house, made it difficult for me to know what legal obligation the employer had over the employee.
Legitimate arguments are present by both sides of the debate— regardless, domestic workers deserve the labor rights. There exist thousands of domestic workers that are not as fortunate as my relatives to have employers who treat them right. Some domestic workers suffer from sexual and racial harassment, suffer from not being paid in a timely manner, and much more. These hardships cannot be disregarded simply because they work in private homes. Domestic workers must be regarded in the same way as all other workers in that they must have the same labor rights. We must work toward continuing the movement toward domestic workers’ justice.