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.

December 23, 2010

2010: A Historic Year!

2010 was a historic year for domestic workers, women, people of color, immigrants, low wage workers, and labor rights! With the signing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on August 31, 2010 and its implementation on November 29, 2010, over six years of hard-fought struggle in the New York State legislature finally won rights, respect, and recognition for domestic workers! Lets take a look at some of our 2010 highlights:

This year…

More than 1,000 allies turned out in New York City and Albany in support of dignity for domestic workers!

DWU conducted and published an independent study entitled “Domestic Workers and Collective Bargaining”. We surveyed over 500 workers for the report. The Department of Labor integrated our findings into their report, concluding that collective bargaining is feasible for domestic workers, making it the crucial next step in building power.

DWU and the Urban Justice Center launched a legal clinic, to swiftly address and win justice for cases of abuse and exploitation.

Worker-leaders led a leadership training program and a nanny training course.

DWU supported California sister organizations in launching the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign.

We held our 10th Anniversary Gala at SEIU 32BJ, drawing over 400 attendees, including our Keynote Speaker Arlene Holt Speaker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO.

DWU members made nearly 2,000 new domestic worker contacts to continue building a strong base for dignity and justice.

In partnership with the National Employment Law Project, DWU published a “Know Your Rights” guide for workers.

And, there is more to come, in 2011…

DWU will launch a massive “Know Your Rights” public education campaign, to ensure that all domestic workers know their rights, and employers their responsibilities.

DWU and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice will start the “Domestic Justice Dialogue Project”, and begin piloting collective bargaining on a neighborhood scale.

The DWU Ambassadors Program will launch, making trained domestic worker representatives available as first points of contact in key neighborhoods throughout the city. They will form neighborhood groups and conduct “Know Your Rights” trainings.

DWU in partnership with the Urban Justice Center will continue to fight for justice for individual workers whose rights have been violated, and will work with the Department of Labor to ensure these cases are swiftly addressed.

We will continue to help build the National Domestic Workers Alliance and support domestic worker organizations in California & Massachusetts, which are poised to introduce their own Bill of Rights legislation.

DWU will continue the struggle for fair labor standards, and inclusion in labor laws, both in Albany and through innovative collective bargaining models.

Thank you to all of our friends and supporters who rallied to bring justice, dignity, respect, and recognition!

Let's keep making greater change in 2011!

November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010: A New Day for Domestic Workers!

Today, over 200,000 privately employed nannies, housekeepers, and elder caregivers in New York have gone to work so that our employers could go to theirs, just as we and those who came before us have done for centuries. We’ve dedicated our hearts and health to providing essential care for countless families and homes. Yet for so many years, we labored in the shadows, vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation. But today is not like any other day. November 29, 2010 is a new day. It marks the end of invisibility and exclusion for all domestic workers, as the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights goes into effect.

The new law is justice for over 75 years of race- and gender-based discrimination. The tide is turning. After six years of organizing to pass legislation that would begin to value the critical work we do, we finally won recognition! For the first time, we are guaranteed basic rights and protections that most other workers have enjoyed for decades. As of today, we have the right to be protected against discrimination and harassment, a minimum of one day of rest per week, and those of us who are live-in have the right to overtime pay at time and a half our regular rate of pay. We also have a mandatory minimum of at least three paid days leave per year. Companions for the sick and elderly are now also covered under the Minimum Wage Act of New York.

The work of defending our dignity and respect has just begun – we have achieved minimum labor protections, and now we must work to make the Bill of Rights work for us! In partnership with the NY Department of Labor and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, we are launching a mass outreach campaign to educate workers and employers alike so that we understand our rights and responsibilities, respectively.

The struggle is, of course, not over. We must also now build upon this victory and keep organizing to secure fair not just minimum standards in the industry. Together with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Urban Justice Center, we recently conducted a survey of over 500 workers to assess what it takes to achieve a level of security on the job for domestic workers. The results show that there is still high variation in the benefits received and in worker experiences negotiating with their employers. We found out that many workers earn less while working longer hours and therefore find it hard to meet their basic needs. Benefits like sick days, paid vacation, and personal days vary from worker to worker, and many workers report not receiving notice or severance pay when their jobs have ended. The precarious nature of this industry makes it difficult for workers to negotiate better terms and conditions. When a worker’s concern is keeping her job, it’s not easy for her to assert her rights or to bargain with her employer. To get these benefits for all workers, we need to negotiate collectively for better standards – united we are stronger! That's why we are working around the clock with our coalition partners to win inclusion of domestic workers in the New York State Labor Relations Act, which would give us the right to bargain collectively for benefits and fair standards at work.

The answers, as we know, are not just to be found in Albany. Starting in the new year, we will also have DWU representatives—fellow workers who have been trained on the new law and negotiations—available in key neighborhoods throughout the city. They will be first responders, making sure workers have the resources they need, when they need them, to defend and uphold their rights. These representatives will hold regular meetings, so that workers in the neighborhood can share information and learn more about their rights, and about working towards better standards in the industry.

A new era begins. Domestic workers in New York are setting bold precedents. Sister organizations in California are preparing to launch a Bill of Rights campaign in the Spring of 2011, and Massachusetts is poised to follow. Also, in June 2011, the International Labor Organization will be passing a convention on the rights of domestic workers, for which the NY Bill of Rights campaign and legislation have been held up as examples.

Now is the time to build real power for all workers everywhere. In our work lies the key to deep social transformation. We can help lead the way for the working people of this country to collectively reach our human potential and realize our hopes and dreams for a better future for everyone.

Related links:



November 23, 2010

DWU is Honored!

We here at DWU are thankful for the many honors we have received recently from friends and allies. The interconnectedness and support of the social justice community is what allows for all of us to continue building a movement for justice for all.

Families for Freedom Honors Domestic Workers United for Outstanding Leadership and a Commitment to Immigrant Rights.
El Centro de Derechos Laborales Honors Domestic Workers United for your pioneering and historic achievement and being an inspiration in the fight for the recognition, respect, dignity and justice for all domestic workers.

Nassau County Office of Education: "The members of the Domestic Workers United have contributed to the success and prosperity of all segments of our citizenry, and over the years, they have demonstrated a selfless commitment to the community that warrants attention and gratitude....the County of Nassau is proud to extend this commendation to you, as you are honored by the Workplace Project for your outstanding contributions and tremendous dedication and spirit."

In addition, we very recently received an honor from the Working Families Party for 2010 Organizing Victory of the Year and the 2010 Bridge Builder Award from NY and LI Civic Participation Project.

We are honored and thankful for these momentous awards!
In solidarity,

November 17, 2010

DWU 10th Anniversary Gala a HUGE success!!!

DWU's 10th Anniversary Gala last Saturday was nothing short of a huge success. With about 400 people in attendance, the room was overflowing with support, love and hope for the future of the movement.
Wonderful music, delicious food and amazing words from Arlene Holt-Baker of AFL-CIO, Jeribu Hill of Mississippi Workers' Center and our honorees were some of the highlights of the night.
We want to thank everyone who attended, donated, volunteered and had fun! Without you, none of this would be possible. DWU felt so loved and supported. Thank you for celebrating ten years of building a movement for dignity, respect and recognition for the work that makes all other work possible. The struggle continues!

November 3, 2010


Hi everyone!!

We are all SO excited for the gala, which is less than two weeks away! With our emcee and keynote speaker booked and RSVPs flying in, we really can't wait for this important and memorable event on Saturday, November 13th. Ten years is a huge milestone for DWU, and is made even more significant by the signing of the Bill of Rights and the first ever Domestic Workers Rights Day on November 29th. We know you don't want to miss the gala, so please RSVP as soon as you can.

Go to this link on Facebook for all the details of the gala. You can buy your tickets online as well!

October 20, 2010

Events, events, events!!

Dear DWU members, friends, supporters and allies,

The next two months are jam-packed with important and exciting events with DWU! Below is our calendar, please join us as we continue to demand justice and greater protections for domestic workers, and as we celebrate the past 10 years fighting for rights, recognition, and respect.

Basebuilding Committee Meeting

Thursday, Oct. 28, 7pm - 9pm

DWU Office, 1201 Broadway, between 28th and 29th St., Suite 907

Board of Directors Elections

Saturday, Oct. 30th, 3pm

DWU Office, 1201 Broadway, between 28th and 29th St., Suite 907

*You will be contacted if you are eligible to vote in the elections*

Campaign Committee Meeting

Thursday, Nov. 4th, 7-9:15pm

DWU Office, 1201 Broadway, between 28th & 29th St., Suite 907

Justice for Pat Rally

Saturday, Nov. 6th, 11am - Noon

Meet at the corner of West 57th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan.

Trains N/Q/R/W to 57th Street

*Rally with domestic workers and allies to demand justice for Pat, a DWU member who was physically assaulted by her employer*

DWU 10th Anniversary Gala: "Domestic Workers Rising: Building a Lasting Movement for Change"

Saturday, Nov. 13th, 6pm-11pm

SEIU Local 32 BJ

101 Avenue of the Americas, 1st Fl

*Tickets $20 for members, $30-$60 for non-members. Call our office to reserve your seats, or go online to https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5774/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=24241 to reserve your seats! You can also email Khionna at kdoug.dwu@gmail.com for more information*

General Membership Meeting

Saturday, Nov. 20th, 4-6:30pm

85 South Oxford Street, between Fulton & Lafayette, Brooklyn

Domestic Workers Rights Day

Monday, Nov. 29th

Location TBA

*This is the day the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights officially goes into effect! Join us on this day to let workers and employers everywhere know that a new day has dawned, and our rights must be respected!*

Domestic Workers Convention: A New Day - A New Standard

Saturday and Sunday, December 4th & 5th

Location TBA

*We have won recognition under the law! Now let's set higher standards for the domestic work industry in New York and beyond. Let's arm ourselves with the information we need to assert our full rights at work! More information on the program forthcoming.*

October 19, 2010

Youtopia Grant for DWU

DWU has been entered in a contest for a Youtopia Grant. This grant will help provide us with resources needed for a massive and innovative Know Your Rights Campaign. Click the link below and VOTE for DWU!!!

October 12, 2010

Justice for Domestic Workers on an International Scale

The movement for domestic workers is not limited to New York, or even to the United States. There is an international struggle that is rapidly growing. The National Domestic Worker’s Alliance is taking part in an international movement for justice which came to fruition in November 2006 at an international conference on 'Respect and Rights: Protection for domestic workers!' in Amsterdam, Netherlands. According to the ILO website, “In June 2010, the International Labour Conference at Geneva adopted a resolution calling for the drafting of an international convention and supplementary recommendation to extend labour standards and social protection to the world's domestic workers. The International Labour Office in Asia and the Pacific has been working with our constituents and civil society in anticipation of such a decision and is now preparing for the next ILC (June 2011) where these international instruments could be formally adopted.”

According to the NDWA website, “The National Domestic Worker Alliance is organizing with domestic workers around the world to win a strong ILO Convention with the standards and protections this workforce so desperately needs.” This convention will be a huge step in demanding international recognition and respect for domestic workers.

For more details on NDWA’s campaign, check out their website here

In addition, there are many other countries with strong and active domestic worker’s movements. In India there is the National Domestic Workers Movement

In South Africa there is the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union

In Asia: Asian Domestic Workers Network

In the Carribean: National Union of Domestic Employees

For more information on the international movement, visit http://www.domesticworkerrights.org/.

For more information of the North American national movement, visit http://www.nationaldomesticworkeralliance.org/

October 4, 2010

Paid Sick Time Act

Everyday, over 200,000 domestic workers in the greater New York City metropolitan area take care of the most important elements of their employers' lives -- their children, elders, and homes. Their health is vital to the health of New York's families and economy. Yet, despite their recent inclusion in New York State labor laws, they are still left without basic benefits such as paid sick days. Domestic workers are expected to go work when they or their loved ones are sick. "We risk losing our jobs or a day's pay for taking time to take care of our health," says Deloris Wright, a nanny in Manhattan.

Domestic workers have joined together with millions of other New Yorkers to urge the City Council to pass the Paid Sick Time Act. The historic legislation would give all private sector employees in New York City the right to earn paid sick time. It would require all employees earn a modest amount of paid sick time: 5 days per year at workplaces with fewer than 20 employees, and 9 days at workplaces with 20 or more employees.

We are close to winning the right to paid sick days for all New Yorkers. Speaker Christine Quinn is expected to make a decision on whether or not to bring the bill to the floor within days. We must push hard in these final hours, and we must emphasize inclusion of all New Yorkers in the legislation. As domestic workers, we know all too well the damage that exclusions can create. The bill already has a veto-proof majority - 35 out of 51 council members co-sponsors. Let's make our voices heard at City Hall and URGE SPEAKER CHRISTINE QUINN TO BRING PAID SICK TIME ACT TO THE FLOOR FOR A VOTE.

Call and email Speaker Quinn TODAY!!

Here is a sample script:
"I am a New York City resident calling to urge you to bring the Paid Sick Time Act to the floor for a vote. New Yorkers can no longer wait. This is the single most important thing you can do to help New York’s working families, including domestic workers, achieve a better, more stable quality of life. This initiative is critically important to improving public health. And, we firmly believe that it will do so without becoming an undue burden on New York’s small business community. Pass the bill and do not exempt small employers. Millions of New Yorkers are counting on you."


District Office Phone
(212) 564-7757

Legislative Office Phone
(212) 788-7210

In solidarity,
Domestic Workers United

September 22, 2010

DWU is honored

Domestic Workers United is proud to announce our recent award of recognition. The award was presented by Denis Hughes, president of AFL-CIO, at La Fuente's annual Bridge Builders Award Ceremony. The beautiful framed award is presented to DWU "In recognition of their commitment to building bridges across sectors, industries and ethnicities to further workers rights." We extend gratitude to La Fuente and NY and LI Civic Participation Projects for this honor!

In other great news, our sisters in California are doing great work for domestic workers rights. Read this article for more on that.

In addition, DWU was featured in an audio piece for World Vision Report. Give it a listen.

This week we have two important committee meetings. September 23rd is our Campaign Committee, meeting from 7-9 in the office and September 24th is our Basebuilding Committee meeting, also from 7-9 in the office.

September 14, 2010

A CALL TO ORGANIZE On the Occasion of the Historic Signing of the NY Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Our movement has made history. On August 31, 2010 Governor David A. Paterson signed the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law. As domestic workers organizations it is time to both take a step back to appreciate this moment, and to make a giant leap forward. First, we must understand what we won:

We won recognition. For the first time in any state, domestic workers will be included in all of the major labor laws protecting other workers. NY State has recognized that this is a workforce that deserves protections like any other. This includes: overtime pay at time and a half your regular rate of pay, a minimum of one day of rest per week, protection from discrimination and harassment and inclusion of part-time workers in disability laws.

We challenged and expanded how minimum standards are legislated. We have broken through and established a mandatory minimum of at least three paid days leave per year. No other worker receives paid leave by law in New York State. In fact, New York is an employment at will state, which means “no work, no pay,” unless you have a contract that states otherwise. Because domestic workers pushed legislators to understand the specific challenges to negotiation in the domestic setting, the legislature set a new precedent and included days off in the establishment of minimum standards for domestic workers.

We are paving the way for a new labor movement. We are forcing a debate about the existing structures for collective bargaining. Included in the bill is a mandate to the Department of Labor to study the feasibility and specific challenges to collective bargaining for domestic workers under the current state and federal labor relations laws. This is the first study of its kind, and domestic workers are helping shape the investigation through a partnership with the Department of Labor, in addition to producing our own independent study.

We -- working-class immigrant women of color -- are inspiring other workers and communities everywhere to continue organizing. Throughout the country and around the world, other low-wage workers, women and oppressed communities have been encouraged by this win to fight. We received over 170 media hits with the bill’s passage, including front page of the NY Times national section. With this victory, we have demonstrated that even in times of economic crisis and anti-immigrant sentiment, we can achieve major victories that change the course of history for working-people through organizing.

This is just the beginning. Our California affiliates have pushed a resolution through the California legislature in support of recognition and labor standards for domestic workers. This paves the way for the passage of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Many of you are now talking about bills in your states. In addition to that, we are moving reforms at the Department of Labor. And, internationally, we are moving a strong “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention at the International Labor Organization to internationally recognize the workforce and our contributions. Next year, we will be putting forward our vision for federal legislation that creates jobs, a career ladder and a path to citizenship for domestic workers.

So we must celebrate how far we have come. It was not easy. Angelica Hernandez, a member of Domestic Workers United, traveled to Albany twenty-six times during the course of the campaign; each trip to Albany is a 12-14 hour day. In addition to Domestic Workers United, members of all of the New York Domestic Workers Justice Coalition groups – Adhikaar for Human Rights, Unity Housecleaners, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers – rallied, marched, attended meetings and mobilized during the six year-long effort. The commitment and leadership of domestic workers inspired thousands to join the campaign.

And, now is the moment we must collectively take a big leap forward. We must make the most of this moment in history to organize and build real power among workers. As an alliance, we are still young. Many of our organizations are just beginning to build a membership base. There has never been a better time to build than now. With the press coverage, the story of the victory, and the track record of other organizations, we must now inspire tens of thousands of unorganized domestic workers to join our movement. We must do the difficult task of speaking to them, engaging them, bringing them to the next event or meeting, following up, and matching them with a role that will excite and involve them in building our organizations. Opportunities like this moment don’t come often – we must seize the moment.

When Governor Paterson signed the bill into law, he was surrounded by nearly 200 domestic workers and supporters; we filled two rooms in the Harlem community center where the signing took place. In his speech that morning, he said, “I am grateful to the sponsors for their extraordinary efforts to enact this landmark bill, and most of all to those domestic workers who dreamed, planned, organized and then fought for many years, until they were able to see an injustice undone.” Even the Governor knows that change happened in New York because domestic workers and the movement they built around this campaign organized to make it happen. Let us go out there and continue to grow and build this movement. In our work lies the key to deep social transformation. We can help lead the way for the working people of this country to collectively reach our human potential and realize our hopes and dreams for a better future for everyone.

September 9, 2010

A few updates

Hi everyone!!

Don't forget about our upcoming General Membership Meeting on Saturday, September 18th. 3pm for new members, 4pm for everyone else. The meeting this month will be at the DWU office which is 1201 Broadway between 28th and 29th st. You can take the N R or the 1 train to 28th st.

If you haven't already, don't forget to mark your calendar for our 10th anniversary gala fundraiser on November 13th, 2010.

DWU has, once again, been all over the press and media. Watch this video on Democracy Now:

Also, check out these articles:

Domestic Workers United

August 31, 2010

Making History!

August 31st was an unforgettable day for DWU and domestic workers all over the world. Governor Patterson SIGNED the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights! It will go into effect exactly 90 days later. The signing ceremony was held at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem with at least 200 members, workers, allies, politicians and journalists in attendance. Governor Patterson, Priscilla Gonzalez, JFREJ member Donna Schneiderman and DWU member Delores Wright all spoke about the struggle and victory of this momentous moment.

You can watch the video clip from NY 1 here.

"We've made history today, not just for us, but for generations to come to prove that change can happen when we stand for dignity, justice, & respect for all!"

~Priscilla Gonzalez, Domestic Workers United

August 24, 2010

The signing of the bill

Dear friends,

It is with great pleasure that we write to let you know that the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,
S.2311-E (Savino)/A.1470-B (Wright), was finally delivered to Governor Paterson late last week. He has 10 days to act upon it.

As for the ceremony with Governor Paterson and the New York State legislature to commemorate this historic event, please be on the lookout for news sometime in September.

We thank each and every one of you for all you have done to push for this long-overdue legislation. When Governor Paterson signs the bill into law, it will be the first of its kind in the history of the United States. It will be a significant step forward in recognizing domestic workers as real workers and bringing dignity to the legacy of all the domestic workers who came before.

With love and respect,

August 12, 2010

Upcoming Events!

Hi friends! DWU has a few really exciting events coming up in the near future. You won't want to miss any of these.

On Friday, August 13th (yes, that's tomorrow), the office is hosting a Karaoke Fundraiser. For $10 you will receive a drink, a plate of food and a fun filled night of singing with DWU members and friends. The event is located at 1201 Broadway, Suite 907, from 7-11pm.

Saturday, August 21st is our monthly general membership meeting. Orientation for new members starts at 3 and the meeting is from 4-6. The meeting is located at 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. (C or G train to Fulton, any train to Atlantic Ave/Pacific St.)

The DWU Family Fun Day is just around the corner! Don't miss this day of good food, friends, games, prizes and fun on August 28th from 11am-5pm. Enter Prospect Park West through 3rd St. and join us at the Picnic House for this great event.

Stay tuned for more information regarding the signing of the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights with Governor Patterson. The signing should take place within the next month, and we want as many people as possible to attend this historic event!

And last but definitely not least, don't forget to save the date for our 10th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser on November 13th, 2010. More information to follow on this event soon!

August 6, 2010

"Freedom, change and empowerment"

The passage of the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights is a historic moment for New York’s working class. Once the governor signs the bill late summer and it goes into effect 90 days later, it will have a huge impact on the lives of New York’s domestic workers. It is important that we continue working to educate the entire domestic workforce and all employers about this new legislation. Everyone needs to know that they will soon be protected under labor laws! We asked some domestic workers: What does the bill of rights mean to you?

“FREEDOM, Change and empowerment! Recognition for the work that we do. Respect for the work that we do. We are not invisible anymore. ” –Pat Francois

“Finally, I got what is due to me! I feel liberated. This is what we were asking for; to make sure that people get what they really need.” –DWU member

“Finally domestic workers are seen as real workers and protection for this workforce has come at last!” –Allison Julien

“After 6 years of fighting for rights of domestic workers, I’m just elated.” –DWU member

Members of DWU participated in a march on July 29th protesting Arizona’s SB 1070. Organizations and coalitions from all over New York gathered and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in a nation-wide day of protest against the bill that would legalize discrimination and racial profiling. The march came with the encouraging news that Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court issued a preliminary injuction against portions of the law. The picture above is DWU members and friends participating in the march.

In the spirit of solidarity, members of DWU also participated in an immigrant workers rally for justice at Flaum Appetizing Corp, a kosher food processor and wholesaler. For more on this event, read this article.

July 30, 2010

Recent Updates!

A lot has changed since our last blog entry. Former lead organizer Ai-Jen Poo has moved on to be the director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance and organizer Priscilla Gonzal├ęz is now the Executive Director of Domestic Workers United.

On July 1, 2010, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The legislation is the FIRST in the United States to recognize domestic workers as real workers! Finally we have the recognition and respect we’ve fought so hard to achieve.

After 75 years of exclusion from labor laws and a 6-year legislative campaign to secure basic protections in New York State, domestic workers—nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers—have triumphed!

Governor Patterson is set to sign the bill into law during a ceremony sometime in mid-August—stay tuned for more details on this historic event.

DWU and the Bill of Rights have been ALL OVER the news lately! Check out these pieces:

Hooray for Albany? State Legislature Acts to Boost Working People and the Economy-- The Huffington Post

We are planning on updating this blog more regularly with exciting features such as weekly themes, member stories, upcoming events and more. We want to keep our readers connected with everything that is going on with DWU as well as the greater activism community and related social movements, so keep checking back!