DOMESTIC WORKERS RISE UP:
DWU'S First E-Newsletter!
In this issue:
• Important Updates: Executive Director Transition, New Staff Introductions, New Office
• International Domestic Workers' Day
• Justice for Pat: The Verdict is In!
• New York Care Congress
• National Domestic Workers Congress in Washington, DC
• Bill of Rights Implementation in New York
• New Workforce Development Training
Welcome to DWU's new monthly e-newsletter! Our first issue marks an exciting new phase in DWU's work: our new office, an expansion of our staff, and a new website—which we hope will be inspiring resources for both domestic workers and our supporters. Most importantly, all this means that domestic workers are building real power in New York.
Executive Director Transition
I write to you today to share an important update about leadership transitions at Domestic Workers United, and to invite you to partner with us as DWU steps boldly forward into our next phase of organizing and advocacy.
After almost a decade of service in DWU, I will be transitioning out at the end of this summer. I joined DWU when I was looking for support for my mom, who had worked as a nanny and as a housekeeper for over 20 years. The moment we attended our first meeting, I knew that I had found my home. Everything I know about organizing and building power, I learned from the courageous women of DWU. My mother's sisters, as I've long regarded them, taught me many important lessons, not least of which is how to lead with your heart and hold a transformative vision that can build powerful movements for change.
In 2009, I was honored to be asked by DWU's worker-led Steering Committee to step into the role of Executive Director. I am so proud of our accomplishments over the last few years. We won the nation's first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York, after a 6-year struggle that made domestic work visible, grew our membership base, and forged one of the most inspiring multi-sector coalitions committed to bringing recognition and rights for all. Since our historic victory in 2010, we focused on:
• Implementing our Bill of Rights with the launch of a multi-media Know Your Rights campaign and a legal clinic in partnership with the Urban Justice Center.
• Doubling our base to over 7,000 workers through the creation of our innovative Ambassadors program, which trained dozens of domestic workers as neighborhood stewards in high-density areas to build local worker power.
• Building out our internal infrastructure for a lasting, sustainable organization, including becoming an independent, 501c3 organization; establishing by-laws and a worker-led Board of Directors; creating a democratic board elections process; and establishing a membership dues system.
• Expanding our workforce development programs with a vision toward creating a career ladder for privately-employed domestic workers.
• Launching the "Domestic Work Justice Zone" campaign with our long-time partner Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, as well as Hand in Hand: The National Domestic Employers Association, to facilitate community dialogues about domestic and care work, broker agreements between workers and employers, and organize to ensure 100% compliance with the Bill of Rights and raise industry standards borough by borough.
• Joining with our sister organizations through the National Domestic Workers Alliance in launching the Caring Across Generations campaign, which has given us an unprecedented platform to support workers to join hands with seniors and people living with disabilities to transform the care industry.
During this time, we have also built an impressive staff team, who will work closely with our board and membership to carry out DWU's mission. Over the next couple of months, DWU will hire an Interim Director to oversee our daily operations and support the Board of Directors in its search for new leadership. Look out for our staff, members and board at actions, organizing meetings, and fundraisers all around New York—as always they're the ones with the megaphones! And, they look forward to working with you to move our campaigns forward and build resources together.
Your support and solidarity has always been part of the lifeblood of DWU. Please consider making a donation today to support DWU through this time of transition, and ensure that it has the resources to continue to do its critical work on behalf of domestic workers in New York.
I have been deeply humbled and have so much gratitude for having been a part of DWU and the domestic workers' movement. Looking back at all that we have built, I know that there is a great deal more to come and am excited about the important role we will all play in building a world where dignity and respect for all prevail.
I am proud to send you the first issue of DWU's monthly e-newsletter. We have been busy, and can't wait to tell you all about our work. Enjoy!
With love and respect,
Pat Nixon: Operations Coordinator
Pat Nixon has been working as a trainer, community organizer, public advocate and coach since 1999, serving as Director of Global Justice, as a staff member at the National Immigration Project, and trainer for United for a Fair Economy. To learn more click here
Helen Panagiotopoulos: Communications Coordinator
Helen's commitment to the domestic workers' movement grows out of her own 19 years' experience as a nanny in New York City.To learn more click here
DWU has moved! On June 1st, DWU moved to 10 West 37th Street, Suite 4W. Our bigger home matches our growth. A reception area will welcome visitors; an expanded conference area will host new member orientations, leadership workshops, and our expanded workforce development trainings; and cubicles will provide much needed privacy for our legal clinic screening in-takes; and all of our programs will benefit from more meeting space for events and meetings.
Last year, on June 16th, at the 100th annual Conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the government, worker, and employer delegates adopted a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. The new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households must have the same basic labor rights as those available to other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest periods of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear terms of employment, and freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain. One year later, domestic workers from across the globe have declared June 16th International Domestic Workers Day! Uruguay made history by being the first country to ratify ILO Convention No. 189 on April 25th, 2012. In response, Uruguay native and DWU member Beatriz Hernandez said:
"My country has a long-standing tradition of trade unions. Unions have a lot of power in my country, which is why we are the first to ratify C189. I felt really proud but certainly not surprised. Unions make us strong!"
Uruguay's ratification will have significant impact on domestic workers' rights worldwide. Once C189 is ratified by a second country, it will come into full force as an international instrument for the protection of the rights of domestic workers.
We are thrilled to announce that on June 13th Pat Francois won her claims for unpaid wages and for the assault she suffered at the hands of her former employer, Mathew Mazer. For almost four years, Pat has fought for justice as a DWU member and leader in the domestic workers movement, working tirelessly not only for herself, but for domestic workers everywhere. Pat shared her story of abuse countless times so that lawmakers would feel the urgency of providing domestic workers with rights and protections:
"When we are willing to stick together and stand up for one another, these abuses won't happen anymore. My victory is a huge victory for the movement."
Her case is a reminder that the courage and strength of domestic workers will always bring about justice.
On June 3rd the Caring Across Generations Campaign held its New York Congress, bringing together over 500 home care workers, organizers, seniors and people living with disabilities, to begin to build a new movement that aims to create quality and dignified care for all. The Caring Across Generations Campaign is a national movement that will transform long-term care by introducing federal legislation to create 2 million new jobs in home care; improve access to care and support services; develop career advancement models and a path to citizenship for domestic and home care workers; and improve and expand Medicare and Medicaid to help those challenged by having to pay out-of-pocket. The New York Congress kicked off an important dialogue among all concerned in New York, through storytelling and envisioning how the lives of workers and recipients of care alike will be improved by all of us coming together. DWU is thrilled to be part of this powerful campaign. Meches Rosales, DWU member-organizer, said:
"I was so excited to see everyone sitting in the same room—people who need care and those who give care. I love that after 76 years of exclusion, as domestic workers, we are finally being noticed for the important work that we do. With the expansion of the aging community, our work has become more important, perhaps more so than ever before. I am excited about the prospect of new trainings so that we can become better workers, as well as the possibilities for better jobs."
On May 18, for the next three days, over 400 domestic workers from around the country gathered in our nation's capital for the National Domestic Workers' 2012 National Congress. This historic event brought together over 30 organizations from 22 states committed to growing the domestic workers' movement. The National Congress marked the National Alliance's 5th anniversary, a milestone in growing our movement at the national level. DWU was thrilled to tell the story of our success in passing the nation's first Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. Our stories of hard-won victories help us to build more power, strengthen our relationships, and expand our work by supporting similar legislative campaigns throughout the country. We are excited to help move Bill of Rights campaigns in at least five states over the next year. DWU member Gladys Arriaga commented on the importance of organizing at the national level:
"It was very educational. It gave me the light of hope to keep on fighting for our rights, so that in the not so very distant future, care workers, like all workers, experience fair treatment, dignity and equality on their jobs."
On Sunday and Monday, we joined with the National People's Action for our joint national conference and a series of actions in Washington, DC. With the power of over 1000 attendees, we held a joint rally to "Put People First," then took to the streets to demand a more just and caring economy. NDWA Organizer Maria Reyes spoke about losing her home to Bank of America's predatory lending practices and led the crowd in singing "No Nos Moveran" ("We Shall Not Be Moved"). We took over three branches of Wells Fargo and demanded that they halt investments in privatized immigrant detention centers and in the national lobby against immigration reform. Members from Alabama, one of whom had been detained, shared their stories of living in constant fear of being separated from their children, bringing the crowd to tears. Our congress brought together people from across the 99% spectrum — rural families facing foreclosures, people living with HIV, immigrant workers, and students drowning in debt.
Since the passage of the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, DWU and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) have continued to work together to support implementation of the new law and to begin to organize toward one day winning collective bargaining rights. On May 15th, we launched our neighborhood campaign in Park Slope, bringing workers and employers into conversation about setting clear standards, guidelines, and shared values around domestic employment. We chose Park Slope because of the support we have received historically for domestic worker rights. The "Domestic Worker Justice Zone Campaign" aims to organize Park Slope households to fully comply with the minimum standards set forth by the Bill of Rights and to commit workers and employers to go even further, raising industry standards for benefits and greater job security. With the help of Groundswell Murals, we created large-scale banners that will tour the neighborhood's community institutions to raise awareness. Councilmember Brad Lander spoke at the press conference and declared his commitment on behalf of Park Slope: "I want my district to be a domestic worker justice zone" – the first in New York.
To support these efforts, we launched our "New Day, New Standard" interactive hotline and a new "Know Your Rights" website to distribute critical information about domestic workers' rights and employer responsibilities. The hotline combines regular touchtone phones, internet-based telephony, and performance art for an innovative way to hear about minimum and overtime standards, vacation time, and paying taxes. Call our hotline today and hear DWU member Christine Lewis, a nanny in New York, share information about the law: 646-699-3989.
Likewise, our "Know Your Rights" website is full of resources and tools for both workers and employers. Check out our recommendations for contracts, learn the ins-and-outs of labor law, and read the powerful history of the domestic workers' struggle for recognition and labor rights. Stay tuned for more resources!
NEW WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT TRAINING
All around New York, DWU members are telling their stories and making change. And, we see the impact locally, nationally, and internationally. We are proud to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the ILO Convention and the growing global movement of domestic workers. We are proud of our victories on the ground, with Pat's case coming to a successful close after many years of struggle. We are overjoyed by the promise of over 2,000 people coming together at regional and national congresses committed to building a just and more caring economy. To support our power from the bottom up, donate today!
GET INVOLVED TODAY