Philadelphia Domestic Workers Win a New Bill of Rights

By Cynthia Drayton
Nanny, Caregiver
 
I’ve been a domestic worker my whole life.

The conditions of domestic work are not new. These conditions don’t exist because domestic work is unskilled — it is highly skilled work — and they certainly don’t exist because domestic workers are “okay” with working this way. They exist because domestic work sits at the intersection of the issues of race, gender and immigration, and this work carries the legacy of generations of discrimination and devaluation.

Domestic work has always been considered “women’s work”, and as a result it is not valued as professional or skilled. Some of the first domestic workers were enslaved Black women, taking care of the families of slave-owners and their homes. And so, even as the domestic work profession grew, domestic workers continued to be undervalued, underpaid, and vulnerable to harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and unfair dismissal, with no recourse.

When the worker rights and protections of the New Deal were passed in the 1930s, domestic workers were specifically excluded from these rights as a concession to southern lawmakers. As a result, domestic workers have worked without the right to a minimum wage, without the right to overtime, without the right to form a union, and without protection from harassment and discrimination, for generations. And as the U.S. domestic workforce of more than 2 million workers is 90 percent women, disproportionately women of color and immigrants, domestic workers have remained some of the most vulnerable workers in the US.

But that is beginning to change. In Philadelphia, where I have worked for the last 15 years, nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance, part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have been organizing for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for more than a year. Last week, the bill was unanimously approved by Philadelphia City Council.

This bill is a historic piece of legislation that extends rights and protections to the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia, including requiring employers to provide benefits for domestic workers, so that people like me can take a day off when we are too sick to work, without suffering the financial impact of losing a day’s pay. When the bill goes into effect in six months, domestic workers in Philadelphia will have rights that they have never had before, changing the conditions of work for domestic workers for generations to come.

I love being a nanny. I love feeling energized with the kids, playing with them and teaching them. I know I make an impact on their lives, and I know that the families I work for rely on my contributions. I do the work that makes all other work possible. And I deserve to be respected at my workplace — which is others’ homes — and to receive the same rights and protections that other workers receive.

Because not everyone can be a doctor or a teacher, but most doctors and teachers need someone like me to take care of the work they leave behind in their home.

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Reposted from Inequality.org

There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work

Union Matters

Human Service Workers at Persad Center Vote to Join the USW

From the USW

Workers at Persad Center, a human service organization that serves the LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS communities of the Pittsburgh area, voted last week to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

The unit of 24 workers, ranging from therapists and program coordinators to case managers and administrative staff, announced their union campaign as the Persad Staff Union last month and filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“We care about our work and the communities we serve,” said Johanna Smith, Persad’s Development, Communications, and Events Associate. “We strongly believe this work and our connections to our clients will only improve now that we will be represented by a union.”

The Persad workers join the growing number of white-collar professionals organizing with the USW, especially in the Pittsburgh region. Their membership is also in line with the recent work the Steelworkers have been doing to engage LGBTQ+ members and improve contract language regarding issues that affect their lives.

“Workplaces are changing and evolving, and the labor movement is changing and evolving along with that,” said USW Vice President Fred Redmond, who oversees the union’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee as well as the USW Health Care Workers Council. “This campaign gives us an opportunity to diversify our great union while uplifting and empowering a group of workers who give their all for others.”

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