July 15, 2019

Harris, Jayapal Announce Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Bill Would Ensure Protections and Benefits for All Domestic Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U. S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07) on Monday announced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, the first ever national set of legislation ensuring the rights and protections of millions of domestic workers throughout the country. 

“Domestic workers are one of the fastest growing workforces in our country,” said Sen. Harris. “They provide essential care and support to aging parents, people with disabilities, children, and homes. However, our nation’s domestic workers have not been afforded the same rights and benefits as nearly every other worker, and it’s time we change that. I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Jayapal to introduce the first ever Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which ensure domestic workers- many of whom are women or people of color- have the dignity and respect they deserve.”

“I am so proud to be the House sponsor of this historic National Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. Domestic workers have been excluded from basic protections since the New Deal – and domestic workers are the future of work,” said Rep. Jayapal. “The courageous working-class women, women of color and immigrant women who are demanding their rights today are unwilling to be excluded any longer. 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.”

“For the first time in history, we have a chance to raise the bar for every domestic worker in our country, and set the stage for all working people,” said Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “As people live longer, we have the opportunity to embrace an intergenerational future in America, where all of us are cared for at each stage of our lives. All of us deserve to work and live with safety and dignity, and this legislation ensures that no one is left behind.”

Every day, over 2.5 million domestic workers across the United States provide care to children, aging Americans, people with disabilities, and homes. However, these workers- which include nannies, housecleaners, and home care workers- endure systematically low pay, sexual harassment, and a historical lack of protections under federal and state labor laws.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act is the first ever national bill that will provide concrete protections for the entire care sector. This legislation addresses the exclusions of the past, and establishes innovative solutions to long held problems within this sector.

The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act:

  • Includes domestic workers in common workplace rights and protections like paid overtime, safe and healthy working conditions, and freedom from workplace harassment and discrimination;

  • Creates new rights and protections that address the unique challenges of domestic work such as written contracts, affordable healthcare and retirement benefits, fair scheduling, support for survivors of sexual harassment, and grants for workforce training; and 

  • Ensures that rights aren’t just on paper, but that they can be enforced and implemented: “know-your-rights” information, mechanisms to prevent retaliation, a confidential hotline and emergency access tool to address harassment, affordability for Medicaid consumers, and a worker and employer-led federal taskforce.

Along with Harris and Jayapal, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT); and U.S. Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-07), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Mark Takano (D-CA-41), José E. Serrano (D-NY-15), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Deb Haaland (D-NM-01), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Doris Matsui (D-CA-06), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA-33), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT-03), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07).

“The National Employment Law Project enthusiastically endorses this bill that recognizes the might and importance of domestic workers,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. “The historic legislation represents an important step in rectifying racist exclusions in our labor laws. The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights tackles both the needs of workers historically excluded from the protection of labor laws and sets decent work standards, beyond minimum wage, in this growing industry. We applaud Senator Harris, Representative Jayapal, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and especially the indefatigable domestic worker leaders in fighting for better labor standards for all workers. In this moment, when workers are pushing for new labor protections and minimum wage increases through Congress, we can envision a world in which domestic work is as valued through our policies as it is in our lives.”

“The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights centers workers – overwhelmingly women, and especially women of color and immigrant women – who have been excluded from the protection of our laws far too often, for far too long,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “This bill ensures that domestic workers will finally have the right to overtime pay, paid sick days, and meal and rest breaks so that they can stay safe and healthy while they care for others. It ensures that no matter what size your workplace is, you will be protected from discrimination and harassment. And it establishes new ways for domestic workers to organize, gain skills and expertise, and have their voices heard at work. Ultimately, this bill embodies the promise of the #metoo movement: a vision of a world that respects women and truly values the work they do.”

“It should not matter that our workplace is in people’s homes, our work caring for others deserves dignity and respect,” said Rebecca Sandoval, a home care worker and member of SEIU Local 503. “Home care workers, and all people, should enjoy basic rights, including minimum wage and overtime protections and the right to join together in a union.”

“Domestic workers perform some of society’s most important work – caring for our children, people with disabilities and the elderly – and for that, they deserve respect,” said Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME. “This bill would close legal loopholes that deny domestic workers basic federal labor and civil rights protections. It would also make job conditions safer and fairer for a workforce that is primarily made up of women, people of color and immigrants. AFSCME is proud to support this legislation, and we will keep fighting in solidarity with our partners and allies until home care providers, child care workers and house cleaners are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

“The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is glad to see that the Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights includes language and funding to ensure that the rights of workers who provide Medicaid funded services are honored, without coming at the expense of the rights of people with disabilities,” said Lisa Ekman, Chair of The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). “This bill creates a model for ensuring the rights of workers and people with disabilities simultaneously. We look forward to continuing to work with the drafters and sponsors on ways to advance these rights in tandem going forward.” 

"Domestic workers in the United States, who are predominantly women of color, have labored in the shadows for far too long,” said Neera Tanden, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “This bill extends essential workplace protections to domestic workers and creates new systems to allow workers to access training, negotiate for fair pay and benefits, and ensure that their rights are enforced—providing a model for upholding high labor standards in the 21st century.  The proposal also includes important provisions to cover additional costs that consumers may face -- helping ensure that costs do not unduly affect the disability community and drive people into institutions."

For further background on the bill, click here.

For a detailed summary of the bill, click here.

###