For decades, federal labor laws have notably excluded domestic workers, extending few rights or protections to more than 2.5 million nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers. Until now, organizations like the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) have sought to give those workers a voice and fill that gap through services like Alia, a benefits platform that helps workers secure paid time off and sick leave. But today, senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris and congresswoman Pramila Jayapal are introducing legislation that could change that.
It's time we changed the way we value domestic work in America. Today I'm introducing the first ever National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to guarantee domestic workers across our country the dignity, benefits, and legal protections they deserve.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) July 15, 2019
The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act—the first legislation of its kind—would require employers to outline hours and time-off policies in a written contract, along with ensuring basic workplace rights like paid overtime and protections against workplace harassment and discrimination. It would enforce paid sick days and fair scheduling—including breaks for meals, for example—and address issues like healthcare coverage and retirement benefits.
“The courageous working-class women, women of color, and immigrant women who are demanding their rights today are unwilling to be excluded any longer,” Jayapal said in a statement. “When domestic workers win, everyone wins: This bill will protect, stabilize and expand this important workforce in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.”
The legislation draws on input from countless nannies, housecleaners, and home care workers across the NDWA, who were consulted as the bill was put together over the last two years. The protections promised by the bill would be enforced through grants to organizations that work with and represent domestic workers, which would in turn spread the word to workers and liaise with government agencies.
“No legislation can fully address every workplace injustice,” NDWA director Ai-jen Poo wrote in the New York Times. “But by protecting against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination based on sex, race, religion or national origin, this bill would catalyze a long-overdue culture change so domestic work would finally be seen as real work, deserving of professionalism and respect.”