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August 15, 2013 / Martha

Domestic Work is Real Work

Did you know there is a whole sector of American workers who do not have the right to organize, to overtime pay, or legal protection from workplace discrimination and harassment?

Domestic workers, such as those providing care for children and the elderly, are actually exempt from a large number of the employment rights many Americans take for granted. Excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, this sector was left out of many of the legal protections.

This means that many domestic workers

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  • Do not have a right to minimum wage
  • Do not have a right to unpaid maternity leave
  • Do not have a right to weekends or time off
  • Do not have a right to overtime pay
  • Often face sexual or emotional harassment

The potential for exploitation faced by domestic workers is made even more dire by the fact that many of these workers are recent immigrants without the English language skills and supportive social networks to fight back against abuse.

Fortunately, activists have already successfully passed a bill in New York, making it the first state to recognize domestic workers as real workers under state law and granting the sector many of the protections that other workers enjoy.

Now they’re taking the fight to California, Illinois, and Massachusetts — here’s how you can get involved.

California

Go to the National Domestic Workers

Alliance’s California Bill of Rights campaign page to:

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  • Take part in their letter -writing campaign
  • Take part in their phone-in campaign
  • Make a donation to Mujeres Unidas y Activas
  • Promote this bill through your social media handles

Illinois

Are you an Illinois resident? Click here to tell your representative to support the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (note that while the website notes an April date, the bill is still in the works and you do have time to make your voice heard) . Also — go to the NDWA’s campaign page or Arise Chicago to stay in the loop about developments on Domestic Worker Rights in that state.

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You can support the Massachusetts campaign in a number of ways.

Go to NDWA’s campaign page to

  • Sign a pledge card
  • View photos
  • Learn more about the campaign

You can also stay in the loop by liking the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers’ Facebook page.

Fair Labor in the USA

In the last issue of the Green American, we highlighted the sweatshop conditions, wage theft and slave labor that occur right here in the USA. Providing legal protection for domestic workers is a key part of creating fair labor in America.

We’ve been blogging about labor issues in the USA for the past month — check out our other posts, may of them written by our editorial fellows, Krisna Bharvani and Sierra Schellenberg:

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