ALBANY, NY – The Labor Committee of the New York State Senate passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Monday following International Women’s Day on March 9. The legislation would provide comprehensive labor standards to over 200,000female workers employed as nannies, housekeepers, and elder-care providers in private homes in metro New York.
Some lawmakers say this the best state initiative of its kind and which will serve as a national model for other states seeking to improve the labor conditions of domestic workers.
“I am proud to be sponsoring a bill that will establish basic worker protections for some of the most vulnerable members of our workforce. Domestic workers, many of whom are women, often labor under harsh conditions, and are sometimes subject to harassment, assault and abuse,” said Senator Diane Savino who sponsored the legislation.
“They are our companions to the elderly, housekeepers, and nannies and provide crucial services to those who employ them. They should be afforded the same rights, respect, and dignity as the rest of the workforce in our State.”
The bill passed the Assembly Labor Committee by a vote of 25-1 on February 4 and is now poised for consideration on the floor of both chambers of the New York State Legislature. Workers say enactment of the bill this session is critical to protect domestic workers who have been fired without notice, denied wages, and even physically abused as the financial crisis continues to take a toll at all levels.
“Now more than ever, we need this Bill of Rights,” said Deloris Wright, a domestic worker in New York City. “It’s been hard for us for a long time, but conditions are getting worse because the financial crisis has our backs against the wall. We have no safety net at all.”
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is supported by over 80 organizations, including the New York State AFL-CIO. The bill amends New York State law to provide domestic workers protection from employment discrimination; advance notice of termination; severance pay based on the number of years worked; an annual cost of living increase tied to the Consumer Price Index; a limited number of paid vacation days, holidays, sick days, and personal days; time-and-a-half for every hour over 40 hours per week; one day off per 7-day calendar week; and health care coverage for all workers, either provided by employers or as a wage supplement. The bill applies to domestic workers in the downstate MTA region and provides a means of enforcing these standards in court.