Domestic workers of the world unite!

Nannies, housekeepers and caregivers rally at New York's state capitol for a bill of rights.

Published April 28, 2009 9:58PM (EDT)

Today, 300 domestic workers and their supporters traveled to New York's state capitol, where they rallied in support of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a piece of legislation that would provide basic protections, including fair pay, to the state's nannies, housekeepers and caregivers. Advocates expect the state Legislature to vote on the bill sometime in the next two months. If it passes, it will be the first law in the country to guarantee rights for domestic employees, who are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and many of the other regulations protecting workers.

The event was led by Domestic Workers United, which points out that household employees need protection as much as, if not more than, any other workers -- especially because their work takes place behind closed doors, where they're particularly vulnerable to abuse. When the organization surveyed domestic workers in 2006, they found that 21 percent had been verbally abused by their employers. More than half worked overtime, often 50-60 hours per week, yet 67 percent didn't get overtime pay. Less than half of workers received basic workplace benefits like regular raises and paid sick days.

The Bill of Rights, which has 82 legislative cosponsors and counting, would include domestic workers in New York's employment discrimination law and would afford them such workplace basics as paid vacation time and one day off per week.

While we're on the topic, don't forget that today is Equal Pay Day! Head over to Open Salon, where Jon Henner is collecting stories about how equal pay for equal work (or the lack thereof) impacts people lives.

By Abigail Kramer

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