June 1, 2005 – A bill before the New York State Legislature would extend labor protections for the first time to domestic workers throughout the state. Maids, nannies and in-house cooks are specifically excluded from current state labor and human rights laws.
Domestic workers "ought to have decent working conditions and not be indentured servants, which is what a lot of them have been," said the billâ€™s sponsor, Representative Keith Wright, a Democrat.
Wright introduced his Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in February, and the package is under committee consideration. An identical measure has been introduced in the State Senate. Supporters hope both bills will become law early next year.
Wright developed the bill with members of Domestic Workers United, a local advocacy group that has led marches in New York City to protest the working and living conditions of domestic laborers.
Stories abound of domestic workers being physically abused by their employers or fired due to a pregnancy or health problems, said Ai-Jen Poo, an organizer for DWU. Dozens of workers have fled their jobs after years of around-the-clock work without any pay. These workers toil outside of the public eye, Poo told The NewStandard, and "the government has basically failed to provide recognition or sufficient protections."
The proposed bill is the first of its kind in the United States, according to Poo. If passed, the measure will recommend a $14 hourly wage for domestic workers and require employers to provide family leave, paid holidays, severance pay and other benefits. Employers would face misdemeanor charges and fines for abuse or wrongful termination of a domestic worker.