DWU Stands with the CA Domestic Workers Coalition


NYBoRsigningOn Sunday September 30, we were shocked and deeply saddened by Governor Jerry Brown's veto of the AB 889, the Bill that would have provided overtime pay, meal breaks, and other basic labor protections for the estimated 200,000 caregivers, nannies, and house cleaners working in California. In his veto statement, the Governor detailed "a number of unanswered questions" he felt the Bill raises. He wrote:

"What will be the economic and human impact on the disabled or elderly person and their family of requiring overtime, rest and meal periods for attendants who provide 24 hour care? What would be the additional costs and what is the financial capacity of those taking care of loved ones in the last years of life? Will this increase costs to the point of forcing people out of their homes and into licensed institutions?"

"Will there be fewer jobs for domestic workers? Will the available jobs be for fewer hours? Will they be less flexible?"

"What will be the impact of the looming federal policies in this area? How will the state actually enforce the new work rules in the privacy of people's homes?"

The paradox of Governor Brown's statement, "in the privacy of people's homes," rests in that the privatized nature of the work is precisely what renders domestic workers vulnerable to unfair work conditions. By denying workers statewide protections Governor Brown plays a hand in keeping this industry informal and, thus, continuing the unfair and exploitative situations that so many workers encounter in their daily lives.

Contrary to Governor Browns "concerns," the impact of the nation's first Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights—passed into law in 2010—has decreased the vulnerability of domestic workers in New York by establishing basic rights and recognition. At DWU we have, since passage of the Bill of Rights, offered support and assistance to domestic workers throughout New York who have been victims of wage theft, sexual harassment, violence and other workplace violations, and helped workers win more than $750,000 in compensation for unpaid wages and other Bill of Rights violations. These efforts have greatly ameliorated the domestic work industry in New York.

These gains have hardly threatened the availability of quality care for New York's families. Domestic workers continue to be hardworking and professional women committed to the families they care for. Nor have they diminished the number of available jobs for workers. On the contrary, the Bill of Rights is helping the vast majority of workers and employers who have struggled for a near century to navigate the system and do the right thing in an industry that has lacked comprehensive standards and recourse for workers who are treated unfairly. Furthermore, through our continued partnership with New York parent groups we are continuing the work of raising industry standards even higher than mere basic protections. Implementation of the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, as well as creating real community-wide standards together with employers, is essential to realizing our shared dream of an industry driven by values that ensure parents, children, and domestic workers receive the care and respect they deserve.

In New York, we are still grieving Governor Brown's unfortunate decision. DWU Board member Jennifer Barnard who fought for passage of the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights said:

"I personally felt devastated when I heard the news. As a domestic worker who journeyed to Albany several times when we were campaigning for the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, our mission was not only to implement state rights for workers in New York. Our mission was to pave the way for all other states to provide similar protections."

The women of DWU give domestic workers in California their upmost support. As Jennifer states, "as domestic workers we support each other, and when there's an injustice, as workers we come together."

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