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Women’s Rights are Workers’ Rights

June 14, 2010

When you read the phrase “Domestic Worker”, what image comes to mind? A woman cleaning houses? A woman caring for children? A woman nursing the elderly? No doubt, you think of a woman and probably an immigrant. This is true in most countries, not just the US. Those who perform these tasks in a household, both paid and unpaid, are predominantly women. If the work of a white, American, college-educated CEO is not valued equally, imagine the value of her nanny’s work.

The New York State Senate has just passed a domestic workers’ bill of rights to guarantee basic labor rights for those who work primarily in others’ homes. New York Magazine even picked up on the trend and wrote an article titled The Nanny Uprising (I wish!) about a movement to promote basic rights for domestic workers.

This is not a new movement, but it has proved a tricky group to organize as “Domestic Worker” is a broad category under which many people may fall. Toiling in a home generally means you have few to no coworkers; you must negotiate directly with your employer without the support of others. Domestic Workers are protected by minimum-wage laws, but they are often employed without contracts or a right to health insurance, paid sick leave, or paid vacation.

Domestic Workers United, the organization behind the bill in New York, began in 2000 and members authored the provisions of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2004.  They are organizing for “powerrespectfair labor standards and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all.”

All of these sound like feminist principles to me! As feminists we should work together to promote economic stability, empowerment, and safety for everyone. To get involved with DWU check them out here.

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