NYCLU Celebrates Passage of Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 1, 2010 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the State Legislature for passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, making New York the first state to pass legislation that imposes labor protections for domestic workers. Governor Paterson has pledged to sign the bill.

“For too long, domestic workers have been excluded from basic labor protections, a legacy leftover from the Jim Crow era,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Domestic workers take care of New York’s children, our sick, and our aging parents and grandparents. They keep New York going. We applaud the State Legislature and the governor for standing up for equal protection for all of New York’s workers and passing this landmark legislation.”

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights would provide New York’s 200,000 domestic workers with the basic labor protections that have been afforded other workers for nearly a century, such as protection from discrimination and sexual advances, a day off every week, overtime pay and recognition under the state’s Human Rights Law.

According to a study by Domestic Workers United and Datacenter, 26 percent of domestic workers earn wages below either the poverty line or the minimum wage rate. Thirty-three percent have reported verbal or physical abuse. Although half report working overtime, few have received overtime pay. Only 10 percent receive health insurance from their employers. And because 93 percent of domestic workers are women and 95 percent are people of color, this injustice tends to affect New York’s most marginalized communities.

While the deal reached between the Senate and the Assembly does not provide domestic workers with all of the protections they should have – the final bill does not include two-weeks notice of termination, paid sick days or the right to form a union – the legislation is a significant victory nonetheless – Albany has wrestled with the legislation for six years in a row.

“For nearly a century, New York’s domestic workers have been denied basic labor protections afforded to other workers, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation,” Lieberman said. “It’s hard to underestimate the importance of this victory for a group of New Yorkers who have historically and systematically been denied basic labor rights for so long.”

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