Crunchtime in Albany: Domestic Workers' Rights

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keith Wright (D-70th) is the sponsor in the New York State Assembly of the “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.” He is joined by Ai-Jen Poo, lead organizer with Domestic Workers United, working nanny Barbara Young, and Donna Schneiderman, co-chair of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice's "Shalom Bayit" campaign at DWU, to talk about the bill’s provisions and its chances in the Senate.


Ai-Jen Poo, Donna Schneiderman, Keith Wright and Barbara Young

Comments [25]

Alice Diamond from Colorado

I heard concern from the callers that they would no longer be able to afford domestic help if the new bill is passed. Raising children costs money. If you don't have it, then don't have children. (The last thing this poor, overburdened earth needs is another human being.) Domestic workers deserve these basic rights. It is selfish to vie to have your cake and eat it too. It is twisted to think that you're entitled to it. Americans wouldn't have half of what we have if we had to pay the real cost for them - such as costs to the humans who are exploited and costs to the environment that is exploited. I encourage those callers to consider the much bigger and ultimately more important picture and to pass that wisdom on to your children.

Jun. 12 2009 12:23 AM
mayra from nyc

just to clarify something one of the callers got wrong- in NY and under federal law, all workers regardless of immigration status are entitled to most of our labor law protections. the logic that employers would replace their "legal" nannies with undocumented ones to avoid their responsibilities under this law is flawed. with limited exceptions (like unemploment insurance), undocumented workers are already covered by our labor laws and could bring claims against their employers just the same. there will be some unscrupulous employers (as there are in every industry) who will seek the most vulnerable workers to squeeze them and hope they won't speak up. the difference here will be that a worker in this predicament will actually have laws on the books to enforce if she chooses.

Jun. 11 2009 11:53 AM
veronica from manhattan


Au pair usually means live in nanny.

Jun. 11 2009 11:30 AM
jtt from jackson heights

single payer national health insurance is the obvious answer to one big part of this problem. (and amny others.)

Jun. 11 2009 11:21 AM
JP from Garden State

Should nannies get paid more then $14 an hour? You pay your mechanic $100+ an hour to work on your car. I’m not a parent but I would think you’d put a higher value on your kids then your car. Should we expect people who take care of small little helpless kids who need constant attention to only make 30 grand a year? Sounds like even paying out at $14 an hour, people with nannies would still be getting a basement bargain discount price to me.

We don’t have a good public child care in this country. This is well known to everyone. Yet we still see parents shocked and scratching their heads when they find out nobody will watch their kids for free or for next to nothing. Does anybody think about these things before they have kids?

Jun. 11 2009 11:10 AM
rick from New York

This bill will result in Nanny's losing jobs.
My wife an I are at the brink of what we can afford in domestic care. We pay some of the wages off-the-books so that she has more take home. I know other people abuse their care-givers, but ours is given more days off than most of my employees, we have helped her meet legal obligations (what employee does that), we have helped resolve domestic and health problems, we have treated her children as part of our families, and the list goes on.

Requiring us to transpose our good-will to a legislated monetary solution, will only cause good people like us to have to let our nannies go as we can not shell out any more, especially in these difficult financial times.

Jun. 11 2009 10:56 AM
hjs from 11211

isn't au pairs just a fancy word for babysiter/nanny

Jun. 11 2009 10:51 AM
Yusef from Manhattan

Compared to other countries, the US has few programs to help women stay in their careers. My wife and I are both in medical research and love our nanny and do the best as we can afford for her. But if the $14 mimimum wage plus healthcare gets passed, it would force many mid-income two career families to give up a career. I'm all for protecting domestic workers, but I think the bill may have many undesired consequences.

Jun. 11 2009 10:50 AM
ceolaf from brooklyn

I think that Brian has raised some great points -- the strongest objections to the bill. It's too bad that the guests have not addressed those points directly, and instead resorted to their talking points and the incredibly sympathetic position of domestic workers.

I don't mean to suggest that the objections that Brian has asked them to respond overwhelm the arguments in favor of this bill. Rather, I think that they are serious enough that they deserve direct rebuttal or response.

(#1 would this bill provide domestic workers with more workplace rights than people working in small businesses? #2 What is the reach of this bill when so many domestic workers preferred to be paid off the books, so that they can get more take-home pay?)

Jun. 11 2009 10:48 AM
JP from Garden State

Since when is overtime mandatory? Don’t think you’ll get much sympathy there…

Jun. 11 2009 10:48 AM

Does this bill apply to au pairs?

Jun. 11 2009 10:47 AM
Seth from Croton on Hudson, NY

The live-in childcare providers in my home have come through au pair agencies that require certain contractual rights to the employees. I think all domestic workers need these rights; especially workers who are working for more then a year or two. I think they would also benefit from a kind of freelancers-type union to help with benefits and to lobby for rights.

Jun. 11 2009 10:46 AM
Hugh from manhattan

Isnt the real issue here child care in general?
Leaving it to the families to cover the costs
will not fly
what about organised and certified child care centers
subsidised by government

Jun. 11 2009 10:44 AM
Priscilla Gonzalez from Manhattan

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is long overdue. For more than 70 years, domestic workers have labored in the shadow of slavery. As the daughter of a domestic worker, I have seen the impact that working in a lawless industry has had not only on my mother as a single working woman but also on our family. Abuse is rampant and runs the gamut from violations to workers rights to emotional and physical abuse. New York has the opportunity to pass this historic legislation and stand for justice, respect, and dignity for all workers. The Bill of Rights would put domestic workers on par with all other workers. I thank Governor Paterson for recognizing this workforce and for committing himself to passing this important and urgent bill.

Jun. 11 2009 10:44 AM
Alex from Brooklyn, NY

As someone whose parents have employed the same domestic worker for the past 15 years to clean their home, I can't emphasize enough how essential and timely this bill is for both domestic workers and employers. It provides the necessary protections for a workforce that has historically been excluded from labor protections and reverses a legacy of discrimination and exploitation. In this moment of economic instability, we need to protect those who make all other work possible.

Jun. 11 2009 10:42 AM
hjs from 11211

not only the off the books workers but many Domestic Workers are not suppose to be able to work legally in this country. will they still be protected?

Jun. 11 2009 10:42 AM
Shelli from Brooklyn

It's a shame that nannies aren't offered health insurance by the families they work for. It seems that a part of the proposed bill should be the inclusiion of nannies on family insurance plans, which would mean that the insurance companies would have to allow a nanny to be added as a dependent. The "employee + 1" that is available to some people now is similar. I've never seen an option for providing for domestic workers on any health insurance forms I've ever filled in.

Jun. 11 2009 10:42 AM
Corey from Bergen County, NJ

Is not the domestic worker issue at heart an immigration issue?

Jun. 11 2009 10:42 AM
L from Westchester

As a legal Nanny, I have found that all of my employers, even the nice ones are constantly trying to take advantage of the fact that I am a domestic worker. Be it sick time, vacation, overtime, whatever. Thankfully, I know my rights and can confront my employers, but I have seen many illegal nannies and maids, just take the abuse, either out of fear or ignorance. It is a real shame, this bill would be great!

Jun. 11 2009 10:41 AM
David from Brooklyn

My wife and I are freelance workers and don't get any of the benefits which we might be required to provide a nanny. It's not that we wouldn't want to. It's not that they don't deserve it. But we can barely afford to hire a babysitter as it is.

Jun. 11 2009 10:41 AM
JohnG from Manhattan

Treat these employees right, dammit! None of these employers would accept similar conditions for themselves!

Jun. 11 2009 10:40 AM
maria from bklyn

Curious. How does this play out? Does the family paid their health insurance or provide an insurance plan.

Jun. 11 2009 10:38 AM

I assume this discussion is only valid for domestic workers who get paid on the book- right!!!

Jun. 11 2009 10:38 AM
hjs from 11211

maybe the war and economy troubles left over from bush cheney are taking up all of his time??

Jun. 11 2009 10:32 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

I wonder what President Obama thinks about such bills? Oh wait, the Change President doesn't want to speak up on important issues, that might change how people view him. No support from the No Change President. Mr. Wright is a sweety and I wish him the best with his important bill.

Jun. 11 2009 06:47 AM

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