By LAUREN N. JOHNSON, Gazette staff writer
Domestic workers, labor leaders, and employers from around the state are demanding passage of legislation that would provide labor protections for more than 200,000 domestic workers currently employed in private homes in New York City.
Journalist and long-time advocate of domestic workers’ rights, Barbara Ehrenreich, opened the press conference stating, “This is one of the groups of workers in this country that is most, routinely abused, underpaid, and ignored as if they were invisible.
“This would not be the first time that women, particularly women of color, have taken the lead in labor struggles in this country and have showed the rest of us the way to go, so I am very proud to be part of this function,” Ehrenreich added.
Among supporters of the legislation are Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, and Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, D-Manhattan, sponsors of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (A.1470/S.2311), which was approved earlier this year by both the Assembly and Senate labor committees.
“This bill is not necessarily about race,” Wright said, “it is about justice, civil rights, equality, and certainly we are committed to making sure that this population that does so much for so many people and for the lifeblood of the city and the state of New York, receives equal justice.”
The legislation would “level the playing field for domestic workers in the state,” according to Anna Tinsly, a spokeswoman for Savino. The legislation is presently being reviewed by the codes committees of both houses.
Now that the Democrats hold the majority, and it is the first time the bill has made the floors of each house, legislators are optimistic the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will pass this session.
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would protect nannies, housekeepers, and elder-care workers from abuse and exploitation by granting basic rights and protections, covering physical abuse and providing basic health coverage.
“It is a priority to the New York State Senate to move this bill and we will be moving it onto the floor of the full senate for a vote, up or down, to put people on the spot asking do they support workers in New York state,” said Savino.
“The idea of workers banding together through mutual aid and protection is a time honored tradition in this country…working together we have improved the plight of workers everywhere,” Savino said, describing the harsh penalties in previous centuries toward organized domestic workers.