"Time to Bargain, Say New York Domestic Workers

Jenny Brown, Labor Notes

October 28, 2010

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Domestic workers are specifically denied bargaining rights under New York state’s labor law, but childcare givers, housekeepers, and elder care workers gathered today in downtown Manhattan to begin a campaign to change that.

Domestic Workers United, which has 4,000 members in the New York City area, scored a pioneering victory when the governor signed a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights into law August 31.

The law, which will go into effect at the end of November, provides the approximately 200,000 domestic workers in New York state with protections that most workers take for granted, including overtime pay after 40 hours, workers compensation insurance, and a guaranteed day off each week.

“We’re finally getting the recognition and respect we deserve,” said Brontie Scott, a nanny and DWU member. “But we have a really long way to go.”

Most domestic workers are the only employee in their workplace, and they usually have no formal work agreement with their employers, making traditional collective bargaining a difficult proposition.

DWU released a report on prospects for bargaining among domestic workers today, backed up by a survey of 500 domestic workers detailing their working conditions. It lands four days ahead of a deadline for a study on the same questions to be released by the state.

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