A Union for Nannies: Domestic Workers United
I love this article The Nannies' Norma Rae by Barbara Ehrenreich from The New York Times Style Magazine. If you know a nanny or housekeeper (as I'm sure you do) who works for a family who doesn't respect labor laws or the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights I urge you (and all domestic workers) to learn more about Domestic Workers United. Please click here to read the entire article.
It’s the most intimate class divide in human civilization, or at least in such relatively civilized places as Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn. On the one side, there is the professional couple bringing in six figures a year; on the other, the nanny or maid without whom the couple wouldn’t be able to practice their professions. Conditions of employment are as variable as the individual employers are — from respectful and considerate all the way to criminally abusive. On average, a domestic worker is likely to get less than $15 an hour, no benefits and none of the credit or glory. To my knowledge anyway, there has never been a successful career woman — or man, for that matter — who’s responded to being praised for “doing it all” by saying, “Actually, Manuela (or Angelica or Harriet) does most of it.”
You don’t have to be down on your knees scraping congealed crème fraîche off marble tiles to see that there’s something not quite right about this picture. Ai-jen Poo was a recent Columbia University graduate in 1998 when she got incensed about the status of New York’s domestic workers and started organizing them into something resembling a union. It’s not that easy to organize domestic workers, even the ones who are fluent in English, because their workplaces are scattered among thousands of individual apartments and town houses and no one keeps a list of their names.
But word spread among networks of immigrant domestics, through churches and around the playgrounds frequented by nannies until, by 2010, the organization Poo helped put together, Domestic Workers United, was formidable enough to pressure the New York State legislature into passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, recognizing them as legitimate workers on a par with any other wage earners, and entitled to such amenities as overtime pay, a minimum of three paid days off a year and legal protection from harassment and discrimination: not everything they need, by a long shot, but a big step up from invisibility.
Click here to read the entire article.