A labor bill of rights that took seven years to become California state law was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week. AB241, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, gives overtime and rest protections to housekeepers, nannies, and private home caregivers.
Since signing the bill yesterday, Gov. Brown allowed California to become the third state in the country that grants such basic rights to domestic workers who toil in an industry that too often mistreats, undervalues, and abuses its employees. However, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights will ensure that the industry doesn’t take advantage of its workers.
California Assemblyman and author of AB241, Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who also had a heavy hand in supporting the California prison hunger strike, defends domestic workers and heralded the bill’s passage.
“Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past,” said Ammiano. “Now, they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person.”
Because of the new law, about 200,000 domestic workers in California will enjoy the benefits outlined in the Bill of Rights’ provisions, including “adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers.” Not only did the bill receive heavy support from lawmakers and domestic workers, but several celebrities, like comedian Amy Poehler, were behind it.
Despite the huge success for domestic workers and their advocates, the bill didn’t always experience such support. Last September, Gov. Brown vetoed a similar bill that would have entitled domestic workers to the same rights as AB241. Anti-union, pro-business lobbying group, the California Chamber of Commerce, staunchly opposed the bill as they contended that if domestic workers took breaks, they would put those under their care in danger.
Domestic workers face a hard financial reality. More than 60 percent of domestic workers report that they don’t make enough money to support their families and just as many say over 50 percent of their income goes to rent.
The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights should be able to give domestic workers some financial breathing room, especially whenever they log overtime hours.
“I’m just so proud of our members and organizers in California who – from a statewide caravan to cookies – ran such a fantastic campaign,” said National Domestic Worker Alliance director Ai-jen Poo. “It’s a testament to the dedication and incredible capacity of the women.”
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.