MacArthur "Genius" Ai-jen Poo: Organizing America's Domestic Workers

17 September, 2014 | Seth Freed Wessler | NBC News

Behind the doors of any given American home there may be someone inside paid to take care of children, an aging grandparent or a sick relative.

Domestic workers are among the least-protected members of the workforce, excluded from state and federal labor laws. For the last 16 years, labor organizer Ai-jen Poo, now the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, has been organizing housekeepers, nannies and home health aides to expand workplace protections. Today, Poo became a 2014 MacArthur "genius.”

The NannyVan: Educating domestic workers about their rights

12 September, 2014 | Alicia Menendez | Fusion

NannyVan is an organization based in New York that travels around the country in an awesome 1976 revamped Chevy van that was purchased on Craigslist.

Their goal is to accelerate the movement for domestic workers rights' by meeting domestic workers face-to-face and informing them about everything they are entitled to in their workplace. They hand out informational flyers, sample work contracts, informational coloring pages for children and they even have a nanny hotline where domestic workers can call in and hear short, humorous episodes that teaches them about their rights.

Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

3 July, 2014 | National Domestic Workers Alliance | National Domestic Workers Alliance

Victory! Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law, the fourth state in as many years. The Massachusetts Bill is the most forward-thinking bill of rights to date and sets the stage for even more comprehensive legislation in other states. The bill will protect workers and employers by requiring clear guidelines for employers and workers including: a written contract; 30 days notice of termination for live-in workers; and maternity leave for workers, among other protections. Congratulations, Massachusetts!

Domestic workers in New York created wrote poetry on walls

20 June, 2014 | Michelle Chen | CultureStrike

A woman’s work is never done—it just gets passed on to someone else. For the nannies, housekeepers, health aides and other caregivers in New York’s middle- and upper-class households, work means carrying others’ burdens: tricked-out strollers and spattered baby food, damp diapers, and dry cleaning—or the family secrets tucked behind a genteel exterior. On Sunday, Christine Yvette Lewis captured a bit of the warped edifice of American domesticity and colored it with memories of her native Trinidad. Taking a paintbrush to the wall of an old cottage, she depicted an island house from her homeland,  and below, scrawled a scene from the adopted home where she works today: “Push Pale Pampered Baby in Ornate Pram Along Pompous Avenue … A Tale of Two Cities.”

USA: If You Want Better Rights For Domestic Workers, Organize The Parents

11 April, 2014 | Bryce Covert | ThinkProgress

Hand in Hand, an organization that focuses on the people who employ domestic workers, launched “My Home is Someone’s Workplace,” a project aimed at getting the parents and other employers who hire nannies, home health aides, and housekeepers to sign a pledge toward fair labor practices and offer them a checklist of things they can do to get there.

“The goal of the campaign is both for employers to recognize the fact [that they are employers] and to shift the conversation around labor,” Danielle Feris, Hand in Hand’s director, told ThinkProgress, “and also to implement the law,” New York State’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, passed in 2010. It even aims to go beyond what’s in the law and emphasize things not covered, like regular check ins and evaluations, cost of living raises and bonuses, and health care and worker’s compensation coverage.

USA: Bill of rights for domestic workers considered

17 March, 2014 | Boston Globe | Boston Globe

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish labor standards for domestic workers, including nannies and house cleaners. A public hearing is planned on Tuesday before the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee on legislation that would create a so-called bill of rights for domestic workers. Advocates said California, Hawaii, and New York have enacted similar laws that provide more legal protections to such workers. There are an estimated 40,000 domestic workers in Connecticut. Advocates say they are excluded from basic protections such as minimum wage and antidiscrimination laws. The Brazilian Immigrant Center said live-in workers are especially vulnerable. Legislation would require employers to advise domestic workers when they are hired about issues such as required hours, compensation rates, and availability of sick time.

Domestic Workers Deserve Protection: Hold Diplomats Like Khobragade to Account

18 December, 2013 | Tiffany Williams | Common Dreams

Last Tuesday, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a prominent Indian diplomat, for allegedly falsifying documents related to the domestic worker she employed through an A-3 visa, who has come forward with details about low pay and poor labor conditions at Khobragade’s home.

Gov. Brown signs bill making domestic workers eligible for overtime

26 September, 2013 | Melanie Mason | Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Thursday a bill that would make nannies, private healthcare aides and other domestic workers in California eligible for overtime pay.

Under the measure, known as the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, workers would qualify for overtime pay if they work more than nine hours a day or 45 hours a week.

“Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who wrote the bill. “Now, they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person.

California Governor Signs Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

26 September, 2013 | Laura Flanders | The Nation

Early Thursday afternoon on the West Coast, Governor Jerry Brown tweeted a message:

   “Today, I signed a bill to help California’s domestic workers.”

Big Win for Caring Across Generations: A Lesson for Labor & Community?

22 September, 2013 | Laura Flanders | The Nation

This year’s meeting of the nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, was hailed as historic for many reasons. There were more women and people of color participating than ever before, lots of first-of-a-kind resolutions on things like incarceration and immigration, and lots of welcoming of non-union workers like domestic workers to the big, old labor family. But what does being part of the family mean?

Domestic workers know a thing or two about familial relations. Described as “dears” and “saints” and “angels” by their employers, the “help” have worked for poverty wages in miserable conditions in Americans’ homes since the nation’s birth. In the widely eulogized New Deal era, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which labor unions praised, excluded people who worked in homes, in fields and in most kinds of retail and service work. It wasn’t called “special rights” for white men, but that’s what it amounted to. Even when FLSA was updated in the ’70s, domestic workers were still excluded. They’re not workers, the lawmakers said, they’re “companions”, members of the family.
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