New York Bill of Rights

Labor of Love: New York Domestic Worker Convention

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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Inspiring Victory for Domestic Workers! We Made History! New York becomes first state to recognize domestic workers

After six years of organizing by domestic workers together with unions, employers, clergy and community organizations, the New York State Legislature passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (A1470B/S2311E) on July 1, 2010. Domestic workers are finally recognized as real workers under the law!!

The fight was not easy. Angelica Hernandez, a member of Domestic Workers United, traveled to Albany twenty-six times during the course of the campaign; each trip to Albany is a 12-14 hour day. In addition to Domestic Workers United, members of all of the New York Domestic Workers Justice Coalition groups – Adhikaar for Human Rights, Unity Housecleaners, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers – rallied, marched, attended meetings and mobilized during the six year-long effort. The commitment and leadership of domestic workers inspired thousands to join the campaign.

What did we win?

1. We won recognition. For the first time in any state, domestic workers will be included in all of the major labor laws protecting other workers. This includes: overtime pay at time and a half your regular rate of pay, a minimum of one day of rest per week, protection from discrimination and harassment and inclusion of part-time workers in disability laws.

2. We challenged and expanded how minimum standards are legislated. We established a mandatory minimum of at least three paid days leave per year. Because New York is an employment at will state, workers do not receive paid leave, unless you have a contract that states otherwise. Domestic workers pushed legislators to understand the specific challenges to negotiation in the domestic setting and set a new precedent where minimum standards for domestic workers include paid days off.

3. We are paving the way for a new labor movement. We are forcing a debate about the existing structures for collective bargaining. Included in the bill is a mandate to the Department of Labor to study the feasibility and specific challenges to collective bargaining for domestic workers under the current state and federal labor-relations laws. This is the first study of its kind, and domestic workers are helping shape the investigation through a partnership with the Department of Labor, in addition to producing our own independent study.

4. We — working-class immigrant women of color — are inspiring other workers and communities everywhere to continue organizing. Throughout the country and around the world, other low-wage workers, women and oppressed communities have been encouraged by this win to fight. With this victory, we have demonstrated that even in times of economic crisis and anti-immigrant sentiment, we can achieve major victories that change the course of history for working-people through organizing.

Inspired by our victory, our sisters in California have launched their campaign for a California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. (To read more about the campaign in California, click here!)