Newsflash: Domestic Workers Bill Delivered to N.Y. Governor

Last Thursday, August 19, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was delivered to New York Governor David A. Paterson‘s office in Albany for his signature. This landmark legislation will provide overtime pay, paid vacation days, one day off each week and security against sexual harassment to the more than 200,000 domestic workers in New York state. Of these thousands of workers, 93 percent are women, 95 percent people of color and 99 percent immigrants.

Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United, said in a letter to Paterson on August 20 that now, more than ever, New York state needs this legislation:

Domestic workers have suffered in the shadows of slavery for generations. Now, in the wake of the economic crisis, this critical workforce represents the invisible, collateral damage of Wall Street lay-offs. Forced to work more hours for less pay, laid off without notice or severance pay, domestic workers are at the front lines of the crisis.

Despite the current urgency, this bill has been years in the making. After six years of debate, the New York State Senate passed the Bill of Rights on July 1, making New York the first state to grant workplace rights to domestic employees. The Governor said earlier this summer that he would sign the legislation when it arrived at his desk.

To ensure the bill’s passage, advocates compromised on some issues, including the number of paid holidays and vacations. Nonetheless, Gonzalez said in an email that the legislation, “will be a significant step forward in recognizing domestic workers as real workers and bringing dignity to the legacy of all the domestic workers who came before.”

Gonzalez urges all supporters to issue a statement on organizational letterhead expressing support for the passage of the bill so that Paterson will “continue to see the widespread support for the Bill of Rights and strong belief in the value of domestic work.” The letters will be included in the bill jacket that Governor Paterson receives on the day he signs the legislation.

ABOVE: Domestic Workers United members encourage signing of bill. Photo courtesy of Domestic Workers United.


Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She is a former Ms. editorial intern who is enjoying exploring and writing in the Big Apple.