Wednesday, May 29, 2013

California Legislature To Vote On A Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights

The California Assembly is expected to vote on Wednesday on a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which passed both the Assembly and Senate last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

The bill, AB241, would guarantee housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers for the elderly and disabled overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and the right to use kitchen facilities. It also provides live-in workers the right to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

That’s the hardest challenge facing Linda Nieva, a Filipina domestic worker living in California who has been in the industry for 11 years. She cares for the elderly and often has to get up in the middle of the night to help them if they fall or something else happens, she told ThinkProgress through an interpreter. “That interrupts my sleep and is very stressful,” she said. She needs adequate sleep in order to care for those she works for, including cooking, doing laundry, taking care of pets, and anything else that needs doing.

The vote comes just as the National Domestic Workers Alliance released a new report on the working conditions of California’s in-home workforce. It found that the lack of labor protections for domestic workers can lead to abusive working conditions like Nieva’s. While formal contracts are relatively rare, the report found that more than 90 percent of workers who had them didn’t have any overtime provisions. A quarter worked long hours without breaks. More than a third of the workers surveyed had suffered work-related pains in the past year but just over 20 percent were given paid time off to see a doctor.

Meanwhile, a quarter of domestic workers are paid below the state minimum wage, only 6 percent work for employers who pay into Social Security, and just 2 percent receive employer-provided health insurance. The low pay leads to financial hardship. Over 60 percent of the workers surveyed are paid an hourly wage below what is needed to support a family. Nearly 60 percent spend more than half of their income on rent and almost a quarter had no food to eat in the last month because they couldn’t afford to buy it.

But California’s Domestic Worker Bill of Rights would “give us the right to overtime, and this will protect us and give us the ability to have uninterrupted sleep,” Nieva said. It would also help those who need time off to see a doctor or care for their families.

If California passes its bill, it will join New York, which has its own on the books, and Hawaii, which passed a bill that is waiting for the governor’s signature. Oregon’s state House narrowly passed a similar bill earlier in May.


The Assembly passed the bill on Wednesday evening and it now heads to the state Senate.

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