Tuesday, September 04, 2007

National Domestic Worker Alliance launched

Mujeres Unidas y Activas, the Women's Collective of La Raza Centro Legal, and the Women Workers Project of POWER held a Labor Day press conference and family picnic in the Mission District to announce the formation of a new National Domestic Worker Alliance. And the women attending had a blast!

The idea for the new national coalition was hatched at the United State Social Forum held in Atlanta at end of June. Immigrant women household workers compared stories, recognized similar problems and decided to join together to campaign for state and federal laws guaranteeing them some basic rights.

Launch events took place nationwide. A Washington Post report from Maryland explained:

They'll change the diapers, wash the clothes and cook the dinner. But nannies want a little respect. They don't need "Nanny Diaries" luxuries. But a contract would do. So would minimum wage, paid vacation, sick leave and overtime pay. And notice before firing.

"We don't mind the work -- we just want to be paid for it," said Janet Osorio, who became so fed up with the long hours and low pay working as a nanny that she now works for a cleaning company. "And the opportunity to have a life."

Yesterday, Osorio met with a handful of nannies at CASA of Maryland in Silver Spring to announce that nannies across the country are organizing. Not into unions -- federal labor law prohibits domestic workers from forming unions -- but into the National Alliance of Domestic Workers. And the first thing they want is a "Domestic Worker Bill of Rights."

What is happening here is that the same energy that built the massive immigrant marches in May 2006 is getting channeled into a practical campaign for basic labor rights. Since these workers, some documented and some not, subsist pretty much outside the political system, can winning legal rights be a realistic goal? Since 1992, the Workplace Project on Long Island has campaigned, successfully, for just such legislation, as well as training workers to expect rights and capture their unpaid back wages. So it can be done. Si se puede!

Certainly the conditions of household work need improvement. Again from the Post:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lumps nanny wages together with other child-care workers, found that of 1.3 million child-care jobs in 2004, workers were paid between $5.90 and $12.34 an hour, with a mean annual wage of about $17,000 a year.

A 2006 survey, done for the Montgomery [Maryland] council, of about 280 nannies in the county found that live-in nannies generally are paid $6.29 an hour and that a majority of live-out nannies received minimum wage or more. But the vast majority did not get overtime, 20 percent had paid vacations, 15 percent had paid sick days, 28 percent reported that money was deducted for Social Security taxes and fewer than 16 percent had health insurance.

Organizations in the campaign in addition to the three in San Francisco include:

Southern California:
New York:
Maryland/District of Columbia


alex said...
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Jane R said...

Very good news! Thanks. Will post a link.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Excellent! Good for them.

The men need to band together, too. A good many Hispanics have moved into the New Orleans area to work on rebuilding and are sometimes treated badly. Probably a good number are not there legally and have no recourse when they are mistreated, because they fear being deported.

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