Senate Majority Passes Historic Bill to Protect Domestic Workers
Law to give basic labor protections to over 200,000 employees working in private homes
(Albany, NY) The New York State Senate passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (S2311D/Savino) making New York the first state in the nation to provide new standards of worker protections for more than 200,000 employees in an industry which has gone unregulated for decades.
This historic legislation guarantees protection from discrimination, notice of termination, paid sick days and holidays, and other basic labor protections long denied to nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers employed in private homes.
The legislation passed 33-28.
“New York has long been a leader in protecting the rights of workers. We enacted child labor laws long before the federal government did, were the first to pass labor protections for those toiling in sweatshops, and more than 75 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former New York State Senator, signed the National Labor Relations Act, sweeping legislation that guaranteed workers’ the right to organize, but which unfortunately excluded domestic workers,” said Senator Diane J. Savino (D-Brooklyn/Staten Island).
“Now we have the opportunity to again make New York a leader in progressive legislation. These basic protections, which most of us take for granted, will result in a dramatic improvement in the daily lives of workers who simply want to be treated with fairness and justice, while providing crucial services to the families that they work for. I look forward to working with Assemblyman Keith Wright, who has championed this issue for years, as well as the rest of my colleagues, in order to enact this bill into law,” added Senator Savino.
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said, "Domestic workers are a vital contributor, helping fuel New York's economy, but for too long they have been denied basic protections that should rightfully be theirs. New York is once again taking its place as a national leader in protecting workers' rights, ensuring fair labor standards are finally afforded to domestic workers. I applaud the efforts of Senator Diane Savino for her tireless pursuit of justice."
Supporters of the bill have worked tirelessly for the past six years to bring the landmark legislation to this point. In June 2009, the Assembly passed similar legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Keith Wright. The two houses will now begin work to reconcile the different versions. If enacted, the bill will provide a national model for other states seeking to improve the conditions of domestic labor.
"With the Senate's passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, New York's most vulnerable workforce is one step closer to the labor laws they deserve. As the grandson of domestic workers, I know firsthand the difficult and sometimes abusive working conditions of this employment, and for the last six years I have sponsored this legislation to give these hard working men and women the same protections offered to the majority of other workforces across the State. I applaud Senator Diane Savino for being such a tenacious and unrelenting advocate for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and I look forward to the reconciliation process and the ultimate codification of this legislation," said Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem.
Domestic Workers, who are excluded from federal labor laws, often face exploitation and abuse in the workplace. A study conducted by Domestic Workers United, a non-profit organization of domestic workers and advocates, found that 33 percent of domestic workers reported verbal or physical abuse at the hands of their employers, while another 67 percent reported sometimes or never receiving overtime pay.
Senator Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) said, "Domestic workers are among the least protected workers in New York and it is time for that to change. This bill of rights will ensure that domestic workers have at least one day off per week and work a reasonable number of hours per day. Often, domestic workers are forced to work long hours, seven days a week, for very little pay, or fear losing their jobs. This legislation will put an end to such practices and provides domestic workers a level of protection they are not currently afforded."
Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) said, "Domestic workers deserve the same basic protections afforded to workers in nearly every other field under the National Labor Relations Act. If enacted, New York will make history by being the first state in the nation to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. It is my hope that soon, other states will follow in our footsteps."
Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan) said, “It is a simple matter of justice to guarantee that nannies, housekeepers and caregivers have the same protections as every other worker under the law. I applaud Senator Savino for her leadership in the fight to ensure basic worker protections for the people who don’t have a voice to speak out against exploitation and abuse. It’s time to level the playing field and give domestic workers the bill of rights they deserve.”
Senator Jose M. Serrano (D-Bronx/Manhattan) said, “Nannies and other household workers, who number over 200,000, play a huge role in supporting families and our economy. However, during this hard economic time, many are facing lay-offs without severance and suffering from unjust wage cuts. These vulnerable workers deserve basic labor standards and I applaud Senator Savino for her ongoing effort to pass the Domestic Workers bill of rights and protect domestic workers.”
Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) said, "I commend Senator Savino for introducing this important piece of legislation. My grandmother was a domestic worker, so I am all too familiar with the hardships and inhumane treatment they face every day while on the job. It is vitally important to ensure that domestic workers no longer face the abuses and exploitation that are all too common in the field of domestic work, and this legislation achieves that goal by guaranteeing equal protection under the law."
Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) said, "Today, I am proud to support the Domestic Workers Bill that will ensure basic rights for all workers and access to a safe and secure working environment. All workers deserve to be treated in a fair and equitable manner. The hard working men and women of New York State deserve nothing less."
Barbara Young, a nanny in Manhattan, said, “We care for our employers’ children, elderly parents, and homes – the most important elements of a person’s life – so we take great pride and care in our work. Still, we are not respected or seen as real workers that deserve the same rights as everyone else. The time has finally come for us to get the recognition we deserve.”
Omattee Jagroop, an elderly caregiver from Queens said, "There must be standards in the workplace. The workers will be very happy when we pass the Bill of Rights. It will give domestic workers a sense of security. With the law in place, we can go to any job and know that we cannot be pushed around."
Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, "This bill will create worker protections, while recognizing the unique working conditions under which domestic labor is performed. These hard working, dedicated individuals deserve to have the same basic rights, benefits and recourse available to all other workers in New York. It's time for domestic workers to be allowed to join the rest of us in the 21st Century."
Donna Schneiderman, an employer of a domestic worker and member of the Employers for Justice Network of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, said, “This is an important opportunity for employers of domestic workers to stand alongside those who make a difference in our lives and to show our commitment to labor justice in our homes.”
"Domestic workers provide crucial services that allow our cities to run. Today the message is clear; all workers should be treated with dignity," concluded Senator Savino.