Founded in 2000, Domestic Workers United [DWU] is an organization of Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in New York, organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all. DWU is a proud founding member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. DWU and its partners brought their power to bear in 2010 when the nation's first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in New York.

April 11, 2008

This is not a test...

Some of you may have received our new update, and, of course wouldn't be a first time thing without a little bit of a mistake! Just so you know..it was not a test, but the real thing ;) . But, if you have suggestions or ideas on how to make it better, by all means let us know!

Here at DWU we are hard at work putting the finishing touches on what we hope will be one more step towards making history for domestic workers. We're calling to confirm with the over 200 people who have committed to an early rise up on Tuesday morning. The appointments are set, we're getting those chant sheets ready and our awaiting the shipment of some snazzy new t-shirts we'll all wear in Albany.

The stage is set. On Tuesday we'll arrive in Albany, with our biggest band of supporters to date. We are slated to sit down and speak to 40 legislators. The Bill of Rights [#A628B and S5235] has been introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly and is awaiting to be heard in the Labor Committee in both houses. Our key task that day will be to confirm 'yes' votes from enough legislators to ensure that the Bill of Rights passes through the Labor Committee with flying colors and to continue to build momentum and support for our cause.

Now, we all know Albany's been busy lately. Know that maybe the recent scandals have sent shock waves in the capital. We know that every year the budget is a big fight. But the thing is - we think this has gone on long enough. Domestic workers have been waiting for justice for too long. Our work has never been recognized, never been given its due respect. We ask the legislators in Albany - how much longer? How many more cases of abuse? We've been saying, Its About Time we Have OUR Time. We are urging that legislators take action and pass the Bill of Rights.

We are ready for a day in Albany. And we thank you for all your support and for standing with us, because we know we can't do it alone.

p.s. Make sure and brush up on your dancing this weekend. On Tuesday, we'll be unveiling our new 'Domestic Slide' - get ready!

April 7, 2008

Seder in the Street

-By Carla
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice celebrated Seder at Seward Park. The event combined various aspects of Jewish seder traditions with domestic workers and housing issues.
Domestic Workers United was invited to make a presentation and I was given the opportunity to speak. I spoke about conditions in the domestic work industry and highlighted our excellent and dedicated service as domestic workers. I stressed that while employers appreciated the care we provided for their families, they pay many of us what they consider as industry standards but what is often insufficient. I also explained the struggles for domestic workers and their families surviving on what we are paid. I explained that while we accept appreciation from our employers by words, what we really needed was appreciation by action. I further stressed that domestic work is a priceless job and a valuable service that we provide to our employers. Our employers cannot put a cost on loving and caring for their families. As domestic workers we give a lot and receive very little. I challenge employers to go against current industry standards and support the domestic worker bill of rights. After my speech, three employers at the Sedar said they will support our bill of rights.

Members from Jews for Racial and Ecomomic Justice did a speech on the ten plagues that strickened Egypt and they did a symbolic modern plagues that i found to be very touching. Some of these modern day plagues were intolerance, racisim, gentrification and greed. They said the importance of getting rid of these plagues from our society and building a better society. The whole event was interesting an meaningful and even though it was a cold day, I was glad I attended.

April 6, 2008

Who's Coming to Albany?

9 days to go...

The buzz is official - on the 15th of April hundreds of people will converge on the state capital in Albany, New York to demand the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. And, we know 6 am is awful early, that its a full day commitment - yet more than 200 people have signed up to get on the bus, because Its About Time Domestic Workers Get Some Justice!

Shout outs to our allies who have made the commitment to join us on April 15th:
Jew for Economic and Racial Justice
Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees
UNITY Housecleaners
TWU Local 100
Las Mujeres de Santa Maria
Brooklyn Congregations United
John Murphy Labor Center
RegeneraciĆ³n Collective
Cornell University
Social Justice Leadership
NYU Immigrant Law Clinic
Jobs with Justice
Students for a Democratic Society
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
Center for Constitutional Rights
Students from: Fordham University
Urban Justice Center
New York Immigration Coalition
Immigrant Justice Solidarity Project
Global Action Project
Socialist Party USA

plus individual activists! more organizations to come! will you be there on april 15th? if interested, please email: domesticworkersunited@gmail.com

April 2, 2008

I'm Gettin' on the Bus: Words from Domestic Workers Headin' to Albany

Its important that I get on the bus to let them know that domestic workers have a voice and we want to be heard. Its about time we have our time.
- Allison

I'm going because I think its time the legislators and the bosses in Albany recognize domestic workers as workers. We are too often an invisible workforce. Its about time we get what we rightly deserve and for us that's having our Bill of Rights. For me the Bill of Rights means I don’t have to feel afraid to be fired by my employer. I would feel more protected with the Bill of Rights. Because they can no longer just hire and fire me as they please.
- Alicia

I'm getting on the bus because its about time that the domestic workers be given the respect, recognition and dignity that we deserve. After having been enslaved and continued to be enslaved ever since those days of slavery. We are not looking for special treatment what we seek is reparation for the injustices that have been brought upon workers in this industry.
- Joyce

I am frustrated with the way undocumented workers are being treated. You’re not being cared for, not treated like a human being. Like they don’t recognize you. Its like if you're undocumented they’re not obligated to give you certain things. Maybe they think - How much can you say? What right do you have? Vacation without pay, and if your sick you’re not compensated for that day that your out. I am going to Albany to hear what our leaders might have in place for us to make our workforce more compfortable and reassured. I would say to them – reassure us that we have a right, regardless of documentation, we have the right to ask for justice. They shouldn't act against us just because we’re asking for justice.
- Dianne

Legislators should know that if it was anytime in their life that they could make history its now. To correct all the wrongs that has been done since the times of slavery up until now. Because today, domestic workers are still working in the shadows of slavery. So when they pass our Bill of Rights this is the best way they could ever ever make history.
Sista with a Vision

Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers

May 31, 2006, submitted by JFREJ member

Last Tuesday (May 23rd), I had the opportunity to travel to Albany with about 80 member of Domestic Workers United (DWU) and 17 other members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). DWU is a city-wide coalition of domestic workers and organizations of domestic workers. The JFREJ presence on the trip was part of our ‘Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers’ campaign. JFREJers attended this trip as allies to DWU, to support them in lobbying NY state legislators to back their Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

Domestic workers’ (nannies, housekeepers, and elderly care providers) experiences range from wonderful to abusive and everything in between, a problem stemming from the fact that domestic workers are excluded from most labor laws in the US (you can see a summary of these laws in the report cited below). As a result, domestic workers are often at the whim of their employers. 26% of domestic workers earn wages below the poverty line. 67% reported not receiving proper compensation for overtime worked. About 1/3 reported some type of abuse in their work environment. A staggering 90% do not have health insurance. (all of these facts are from DWU’s recently published report on domestic workers in the NY area).

DWU’s proposed Bill of Rights includes a living wage of $14/hour ($16 if the employer does not provide health insurance), paid sick and vacation days, overtime pay, advance notice of termination, and severance pay – among other things – that many of us expect and take for granted from our own employers. It is currently being moved through different committees of the New York State senate. On Tuesday, we encouraged legislators to push the bill to a vote on the senate floor.

Tuesday’s lobby day arrived on the heels of the aforementioned publication of DWU’s report “Home is Where the Work is: Inside New York’s Domestic Worker Industry,” summarizing several years of research, which included over 500 interviews with domestic workers in the NY area. There are over 200,000 domestic workers in the tri-state area, the overwhelming majority of whom are women of color. The questions stemming from this issue are numerous: how does the way domestic workers are treated affect the way our culture values domestic work itself? Do we still fail to view what is traditionally “women’s work” as actual work? How can we continue failing to recognize the importance of people who care for our most intimate and precious possessions – our children, our parents, and our homes?

These questions are the fuel for JFREJ’s Shalom Bayit campaign. The campaign seeks to “alter power relations between domestic workers and employers within NYC synagogue communities” (from the JFREJ website). We do this by encouraging dialogue between employers within communities, the long-term goal of which is to improve the working environment for both employer and employee. One of the problems is that because domestic work is not valued as real work, oftentimes employers of domestic workers fail to see themselves as employers. SB is also working on building resources for employers on a variety of topics, ranging from how to pay one’s domestic worker on the books to how to purchase health insurance. We encourage rabbis, including those who are members of the JFREJ Rabbinical Council, to give sermons on this topic. We held a pre-Passover event at which several rabbis taught texts on labor issues in Jewish tradition and two members of DWU spoke about their experiences as domestic workers. We also distributed our SB haggadah supplement, which contains five different readings for the Passover seder dealing directly with domestic work, each tied to a different part of the seder. (Upcoming events are listed here).

Tuesday was an incredibly uplifting day for me, for a number of reasons. The women of DWU are truly remarkable and they are a joy to be around. There’s an underlying tone in so many progressive organizations and circles that mainstream politics are simply “not for us.” Our game is to work on the grassroots level, and even attempting to enter the realm of mainstream politics, beyond demonstrating at the RNC, is simply not worth our time. On Tuesday, I learned that one can only have such an attitude as I have just described with a certain degree of economic and/or racial privilege – the privilege of knowing that regardless of what happens in mainstream politics, one’s life will more or less stay the same. For the women of DWU, pushing this legislation is not simply a matter of making a lot of noise in Albany, it’s about their lives. It’s about dignity and respect, gained through a bill that guarantees them rights that so many of us take for granted. It’s with this passion that they marched into the offices of the most white legislators in Albany and told their stories, proudly, fiercely, and emotionally.

Lobby day was one step among many, and I also believe that our organizing in synagogue communities can have a tremendous political impact. If employers across New York city concerned themselves with being better employers and treating their employees the way that they expect to be treated in their own workplaces, the support for this legislation would be enormous. The discussion is just getting started.

April 1, 2008

Get Ready for Albany

April 15th and May 20th are important days..

In order to have the impact we want to have, we should be prepared! Trainings are for anyone who's interested in joining DWU on April 15th and/or May 20th for our trip to Albany to fight for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. If you have never done a day or event like this before, these trainings will help you prepare and know what to expect in advance. We encourage everyone to attend. Refreshments will be served.

Please call our office at 718.220.7391 x23 to RSVP so we know how much to prepare..

Saturday April 5th
General Legislative Visit Training 12:30 - 2:30
NYU Law School - Furman Hall
245 Sullivan Street, between West 3rd and Washington Square South
Directions: Take the A/C/E/F/D/B/V to West 4th street

Thursday April 10th
General Legislative Visit Training 7 - 9 PM
Park Slope Jewish Center
1320 8th Ave @ 14th st.

Sunday April 13th
General Legislative Visit Training 2:00 - 4:00
NYU Law School - Furman Hall
245 Sullivan Street, between West 3rd and Washington Square South