Monday, June 7, 2010

For Household Workers, the Political is Very Personal.

The Nanny Uprising
By Jennifer Gonnerman

Photo of Angelica Hernandez who sued her former bosses, claiming she was paid less than minimum wage.

The Recession Has Been the Ultimate Recruiting Tool. Nannies Who’ve Been Sacked Without Warning are Primed to Fight Back.

This week New York State moved a crucial step closer to passing a bill of rights for domestic workers. It’s been a long time coming for nanny activists like Patrice Francois, whose politicization led her into an ultimately violent conflict with her employer. As contributing writer Jennifer Gonnerman reveals in this week’s New York magazine, in the struggle for household workers’ rights, the political is getting very personal:

The new law would cover all 200,000 domestic workers in the New York area—whether they work on the books or off, whether they are legal residents or not—giving them recourse if their employer disregards the rules. Supporters believe it has the potential to alter dramatically the nanny-employer relationship. The tenor of job negotiations changes when a nanny is not just asking for paid vacation time but pointing out that she is legally entitled to it. No doubt there will be a period of adjustment and some employers who resist. But considering the number of parents who post questions about how to treat their nannies on sites like Urban Baby—How much of a raise should I give my nanny? How should I let go of my nanny of five years?—it’s evident that many employers are trying to get this relationship right. While the Bill of Rights doesn’t stipulate wages, it will provide something that many parents seem to want: clarity.

Donna Schneiderman first heard about the Bill of Rights in 2008, after an organizer from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice visited her daughter’s Hebrew school in Park Slope. She supports the bill, “so that as employers we’re not winging it.” Schneiderman has employed the same woman to care for her children for eleven years. “Yes, there will be an awkward transition for those of us who have been long-term employers, and there might be a financial impact for some people who may not have been paying vacation pay or who may not be paying for sick days,” she says. “But I think the next wave of new parents will be better off for it. That will be their new standard.”

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Anonymous said...

excellent article. very informative proving labor laws and the nanny law are essential. reading a lot of yesterdays posts of nannies saying the law is useless upsets me. i think it's important to realize these laws are so important. very essential to protect us. i feel we have learned to be helpless in a way and it's sad to think that such a law is useless. this extends to all workers not just domestics.

Tobago Nanny said...

Very good article and nanny law is great news. Anonymous I agree. Nannies should realize this is not a useless law. I'm sure people had similar concerns about paperwork and being hard to regulate civil rights laws but those are still necessary laws. If not for labor laws why wouldn't all employers underpay and treat employees poorly?

Anonymous said...

Good labor laws are only as good as their enforcers, which is something that we should consider: a country can put anything it likes into its legal code, but legislation is useless without inspection agents and law enforcement to back it up. For example, most countries have laws against child labor, but the use of child labor is a perennial problem in the developing world.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone of the over 185 nannies (I see follow this blog)a member of Domestic Workers United?

Please let me know if you are because it seems like most nannies aren't willing to participate in helping this important law/cause. I feel like nannies complain about not being respected yet don't help causes like Domestic Workers United?

To those not in support of the law or feel it is useless do you think writing angry blog posts or complaining to your friends about domestic workers rights is going to help the industry as a whole? I think passing the law is awesome and more likely to help then getting mad and gossiping or complaining.

Maria Lopez
Miami FL