An estimated 2 million people, mostly immigrant women of color, work as domestic workers throughout the U.S., doing work that allows their employers to go to work themselves. At the same time, millions of Americans depend on direct care workers, including home care aides, personal care attendants and nursing assistants, for help with basic tasks like bathing or getting dressed. Yet domestic and care workers are among the lowest paid, and most are excluded from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In New York State, domestic workers organized and won the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, providing basic rights and protections for privately employed nannies, housekeepers and elder caregivers. Similar campaigns are underway in a number of states across the country. And in response to years of pressure, the Obama administration is poised to enact a rule change that will grant home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections.
Domestic and care workers are winning real change, and also demonstrating new ways of building power for those who had long been among the least powerful.