Domestic workers across the country are making it clear that, even in a difficult political environment, it is possible to make gains for low-wage workers. For the first time in many, many decades, domestic workers are finding ways to win. They are creat ing policy change that will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in tangible and substantial ways. The 2014 Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights is the most expansive codification of rights for this long-overlooked part of the labor force ever to be enacted. In one sense, there is nothing new about domestic workers organizing for better wages and working conditions. From the days of the Atlanta washer- women’s strike at the end of the 19th century through the household employee organizing of the 1960s and 70s, women have joined together to challenge an industry in which, traditionally, they have been poorly compensated and routinely over- worked.
But today’s domestic worker movement, while building on the past, is also breaking new ground. It has generated new political protagonists – the immigrant nannies, housecleaners and elder care- givers who now make up a substantial segment of the work force and whose commitment to orga- nizing is the foundation of today’s victories. It has been strategically innovative, winning campaigns for domestic worker bills of rights in four states, with more to come. It has welcomed and built upon the support of allies from organized labor, immigrant and workers’ rights groups, leaders from a range of faith communities, and ethically oriented employers. And it has networked and organized with women from around the world to win the very first international convention for domestic workers’ rights.
Today’s domestic workers’ movement is a sustained and growing effort that draws upon and fertilizes the transformative vision and innovative organizing of communities of color, immigrant communities, low-wage workers and women of color. Domestic workers have stepped into their power. Their victories are expanding the realm of the possible, not only for themselves, but also for all who are committed to worker justice and dignity.
Part of the UMass Boston Community-Engaged Teaching, Research, and Service Series. http://scholarworks.umb.edu/engage
Tracy, Natalicia; Sieber, Tim; and Moir, Susan ScD, "INVISIBLE NO MORE: Domestic workers organizing in Massachusetts and beyond" (2014). Labor Studies Faculty Publication Series. 1.
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