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.

June 30, 2008

Bill of Rights Recap - 2008 Legislative Session

June 23rd marked the closing of the 2008 Legislative Session, and with it, it concludes our fourth year of our fight to win a New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would amend state labor law to provide much needed labor protections for the more than 200,000 women working as nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers.

At the beginning of the year, we had high hopes for our bill and were focused on moving it forward. Our first visit to Albany set the theme for the rest of the session, where the advice was: You need to bring more people to show the support this bill has. You need to demonstrate this very visually to the legislators here in Albany.

We took that advice and ran with it. Setting off to mobilize hundreds of Bill of Rights supporters, we organized two Days of Action in Albany. We reached out to our closest allies. We sought the support of new groups and individuals - in universities, church congregations, and in community presentations. Prep trainings were offered to everyone participating. And with the help of our NYU law students, we were able to schedule over 100 meetings with legislators over the course of the two days. With the motto, ‘It’s about time we have our time,’ we mobilized more than 550 supporters on April 15th and May 20th, more than doubling our numbers in previous years combined. We agitated, we educated and pushed for the passage of our Bill. And, the Domestic Slide was born!

During the session we also encountered several challenges. Some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights are commonly found in collective bargaining agreements, and legislators feel that passing a law including these provisions would equal giving domestic workers ‘special treatment’. The second key issue is one of strategy -- some legislators think that the bill should be broken up and fought for incrementally, in smaller pieces.

Our response was to make the case that this industry is unique, and therefore the traditional means of establishing labor standards and protections through collective bargaining simply doesn’t work. It has been 73 years since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRB), which essentially formed the basis of worker protections in this country. Domestic workers were excluded from these protections. This historical exclusion along with numerous others has permitted the discrimination of domestic workers and it must be reversed. Yet the solution cannot solely involve the inclusion of domestic workers in the NLRB, because in fact, this industry is uniquely structured to prevent collective bargaining as we know it. There is no one employer for workers to negotiate with. There are over 200,000 workers, and there are the same amount of employers. And the workplaces are dispersed behind unknown doors throughout the metropolitan area. Any worker who tries, under such conditions, to negotiate for a paid holiday that her employer is not willing to provide, risks losing her job. There is no collective, and no bargaining power. In an industry where workers have little to no leverage in negotiating with their employers, an approach of ‘a little at a time’ will continue to subject domestic workers to unfair and unjust working conditions. The labor of domestic workers has gone unrecognized for too long. It’s been long enough.

Still, we haven’t been unwilling to negotiate and compromise with legislators. In this session alone we made three key changes to our bill to respond to legislators’ concerns without doing away with the spirit of the bill, including the removal of the Family and Medical Leave provisions, changing the applicability of the Bill to the Metropolitan Area, and including the Healthy New York program in our health care provision for the bill.

As this legislative session closes, the Bill [A628B] is still awaiting a vote in the Labor Committee. Assemblywoman Susan John, Chair of the Labor Committee has proposed alternative legislation, which would provide both farm workers and domestic workers with overtime pay and one day of rest per week. We support this effort, and we maintain that the Bill of Rights and its core components are the ultimate solution. Assemblywoman John has made a commitment to continue working with us to move the Bill forward.

With the challenges and the lessons have also come many accomplishments. Here are some developments we’re particularly excited about:

• Strong Support from More People
This session we were successful in bringing more domestic workers and more supporters into the fight. In particular, faith communities, young people and students all played more visible roles. Labor has continued to be a key ally. We were joined this year by top labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, whose own mother was a domestic worker for 40 years, and Roger Toussaint, President of TWU Local 100. A busload of UFCW Local 1500 members joined May 20, UAW members primed the hallways for us on April 15 and SEIU Local 32BJ continued in their support for our work. And on top of all the new support, we continue to be able to count on allies who have stood with us throughout: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jobs with Justice, Immigrant Justice Solidarity Project and all the members of the New York Domestic Workers Justice Coalition – including CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees and Unity Housecleaners of Long Island. Together we demonstrated tremendous power in our demands for justice.

• Legislative sponsorship
Early this session, we received a great honor – we were presented with an award by the Black and Latino Legislators Association during Caucus weekend in mid-February. This was the beginning of a groundswell of support from legislators, following 2 high visibility days of action, led by members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, and followed by members of the Labor Committee and throughout the legislature. We closed the legislative session with 60 co-sponsors in the Assembly. And, Senator Maltese signed on as our Senate sponsor.

• Active Solidarity with Farm Workers
On March 4, domestic workers and farm workers joined together with the Labor-Religion Coalition for their annual 40-hour fast, this year highlighting immigrant worker rights. From that day forward, domestic workers and farm workers worked together closely, supporting one another’s efforts to win respect and reverse the legacy of injustice that has been our fate since the 1930’s. On May 20, the two groups of workers rallied jointly, bringing together workers and supporters from around the state in a call to action. These efforts have resulted in the passage of a measure to provide overtime pay and a day of rest to both farm workers and domestic workers in the Labor Committee. The power of this solidarity will continue to build as we prepare for the next legislative session.

• Visibility in the Media
At the end of this session, an editorial in the Sunday New York Times appeared in support of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The following day, a long story appeared in the Metro Section of the NY Times, detailing the stories of domestic workers around the country who participated in the first National Domestic Workers Congress, including a photo of a march where participants of the Congress and over 300 supporters marched from City Hall together for the Bill of Rights.

Next steps
The end of the legislative session does not mean our work for the year has ended. Now is the time for the groundwork to take place, the education, the basebuilding, the leadership development, the reflection, assessment and strategy development. We hope that you will take the time and breathing room to think about new communities and constituencies to mobilize in this historic movement for justice in our state. Collect postcards and letters of endorsement and support for the Bill of Rights, schedule discussions and presentations about domestic work in a school, church or community near you. Write an op ed in your local newspaper about what the Bill of Rights means to you. Schedule an in district meeting with your legislator about the Bill of Rights. Prepare to join DWU in the summer and fall for actions in support of workers who have been abused by their employers. And get ready for the fight next session, when we bring our moral message for justice and respect, and our collective power to bear in a sustained campaign of action, education and more action until we see a victory! Are you with us? We know you are!

There are too many people to thank for all that we have accomplished this year, but we would like to acknowledge a few – Richard Winsten, Jacqueline Williams, and Julie Ruttan of Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, Ed Ott, NYC Central Labor Council, Susan Borenstein of the AFL-CIO, Jeannine Johnson and Assemblyman Keith Wright, Jobs with Justice, Brooklyn Congregations United, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, NYU Immigrant Rights Law Clinic, Center for Constitutional Rights, Urban Justice Center, Third World Newsreel, all those who participated in the Albany Days of Action, the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign, and many more. . .

June 18, 2008

the Nanny Diaries

Quite recently while walking down the street I saw an ad on a pole which read "Dog Walker for hire, $12 for half and $20 for a hour". When i saw this i had a terrible feeling within my gut to see that employers do not want to pay their Domestic worker a livable wage for taking care of their prized possession (namely their children) but they are willing to pay $20 a hour to have their dog walked. Thinking about this for a moment then clearly made me realise what or who they consider their prized possession. Here in a Global City like New York domestic Workers are treated less than human beings yet they continue to do the work that make all other work possible allowing their employers to go to work and have leisure time. Some domestic workers earn as little as $250 per week, some cant even afford to pay their or afford the necessity of a telephone. With no laws to protect us, no right to collective bargaining and no right to organize we are left at the whim of these employers. It is about time that we be given respect and recognition for the work we do , as a former proud nanny (who contributed a lot into educating and building a solid foundation for those in my care) i can identify some of the abuse and exploitation workers faced within this industry. There is a solution to these problems, this solution is The Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights it is about time this bill be pass to reverse the history of injustice that Domestic workers face, it is about respect, recognity and dignity ,it is about fair labour standards and most of all its about HUMANITY.

the Nanny Diaries

While working as a nanny, one day I was not feeling well so I went to the doctor. He told me my Blood Pressure was HIGH and recommended I rest for one(1) week. When I returned home I called my employer and told her that the Doctor gave me a week off from work because I was not feeling well and my pressure was high and Oh Boy, she hit the roof she said why did he give you a week off, when you are sick you do not want a week off you only need a day, what am I going to do with these children. I told her I have a sick paper from the Doctor and she said she does not want it she just need me to come to work, I told her I would not be out that and she said well I am not paying you ,I took the week and rested and when I returned I was not paid for the week. (Talk about Injustice,)

June 13, 2008

Bill of Rights Gains Support in State Assembly

Here's the latest count of New York State Assembly co/multi-sponsors of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights:

Bill Sponsor:
Keith L.T. Wright

Barbara M. Clark
Aurelia Greene
José R. Peralta
William Colton
Ruben Diaz, Jr.
Herman D. Ferrell, Jr.
Ivan C. Lafayette
John J. McEneny
N. Nick Perry
Annette Robinson
Darryl C. Towns
Linda B. Rosenthal
Felix Ortiz
Brian P. Kavanagh
Ellen Young
Nettle Mayersohn
J. Gary Pretlow
Hakeem Jeffries
Karim Camara
Mike Spano
Adam Clayton Powell, IV
Jeffrion Aubry
Phil Ramos
Richard Brodsky
Alan Maisel
Amy Paulin
Daniel O'Donnell

Peter Abbate, Jr.
Michael Benjamin
William F. Boyland, Jr.
James F. Brennan
Adriano Espalliat
Richard N. Gottfried
Earlene Hooper
Rhoda Jacobs
Micah Z. Kellner
Charles D. Lavine
Joseph R. Lentol
Margaret M. Markey
Joan L. Millman
Audrey I. Pheffer
Bob Reilly
Naomi Rivera
Peter Rivera
William Scarborough
Michele Titus
Harvey Weisenberg
Carl E. Heastie
Anthony Seminerio
Ellen Jaffee
Marc S. Alessi
Vivian E. Cook
Clifford W. Crouch
Michael Cusick
Luis Diaz
Crystal D. Peoples

June 9, 2008

Solidarity Message

Dear friends,

We on behalf of National Home & Domestic Women Workers Union express our deep solidarity with you.It is good news for us you hold your national congress in recent past.We came to know from IRENE of Holland.If we heard before we can send solidarity messes to your congress. We also express our heartfelt thanks to your and your new leaders.We also hope our relationship will be more closer in near future.

Please keep in touch.

In solidarity

Nahar Akter

General secretary

June 3, 2008

Message from Domestic Workers Union, Bangalore India




June 2, 2008

Domestic Workers are comin to NYC!

In just a few days domestic workers from Boston, San Francisco, Houston, San Antonio, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington D.C. will be joining domestic workers in New York to convene the National Domestic Worker Congress. We're excited to see our compañeras again, looking to build from the unity that was sparked at the US Social Forum last summer. And this time, there will be new groups joining in.

New York as our meeting spot is no random choice. New York is the site of one of the strongest campaigns on the ground fighting for rights, respect and reparations for domestic workers. As this year's state legislative session comes to a close, we've been able to mobilize hundreds of people to agitate and push for the passage of the Bill of Rights. Our national allies are here to register there support and to begin to work towards place domestic workers on the national agenda for workers' rights.

The Congress will involved planning meetings, internal exchanges and joint political education sessions between domestic workers organizations. There will also be public conference, the detailed schedule is:

June 6th - Barnard College, 3009 Broadway at 117th street
10:30 AM Panel: Domestic Worker Organizing in the U.S.
Representatives from Alliance Member groups will talk about what's happening in the local cities and share innovations in campaign or programmatic work.

12:30 PM Lunch

1:30 PM Panel: Lessons in National Organizing
This panel will feature representatives from national groups: Jobs with Justice, Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Right to the City Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice. They will share lessons building national alliances and waging national campaigns.

3:30 PM Breakout Discussions
There will be three break out groups:
- On Legal Advocacy as a way to support Domestic Worker organizing
- On Ally Groups and having active solidarity with Domestic Workers
- For Domestic Workers, how do we connect with critical issues of our time

7:00 PM Fundraiser Party for National Domestic Worker Alliance
at Bar 13, VIP Entrance - 121 University Place and 13th street, 3rd Floor
N/Q/R/Q/4/5/6 to Union Square

Saturday, June 7th @ 11AM
March for Rights, Respect and Reparations for Domestic Workers
Domestic Workers March for Rights, Respect and Dignity
11 AM - Meet at City Hall Park, On Broadway between Barclay and Chambers. Take the N/R to City Hall or 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge.

Message from Indonesian Migrant Workers Union

Dear Freinds,

We are just heard from friends, that domestic workers in America will assembled in New York, this month. We area Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, a union for Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong, would like to say congratulation to domestic workers who will have a meeting in New York. Were in Asia already build a regional alliance for domestic workers in Asia, called Asian Domestic Workers Alliance, we've just launched on 1 May 2008. The members are grass root domestic workers union and organizations.


In Solidarity,
Chairperson of IMWU