Shortly before his midnight deadline on Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced he vetoed ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ (Assembly Bill 889) that would have provided overtime pay, meal breaks and other labor protections to an estimated 200,000 caregivers, nannies and house cleaners in California.
As a result, the overwhelmingly female and immigrant domestic worker workforce in California will continue to be excluded from most labor and employment laws.
In the legislative update announcing his veto, Brown said domestic workers deserve fair pay and safe working conditions, but said he rejected the bill because it “raises a number of unanswered questions.” [PDF]
“Will there be fewer jobs for domestic workers? Will the available jobs be for fewer hours? Will they be less flexible?”, the Democratic governor asked in his veto statement. “What will be the impact of the looming federal policies in this area? How would the state actually enforce the new work rules in the privacy of people’s homes?”
The irony is that the “privacy of people’s homes” that Gov. Brown speaks of is precisely what keeps domestic workers vulnerable. According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the mostly female and immigrant domestic workforce is particularly vulnerable due to the isolated nature of the industry, where women labor behind closed doors and out of the public eye.
“Protecting the basic labor rights of workers who care for kids and elders and sick people isn’t that complicated. This is a real setback for racial and economic justice,” said Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of Colorlines.com.
Data collected by the American Community Survey from 2006 to 2008 indicate that only 20% of domestic workers in California are white and 73% are foreign-born. Domestic workers are also overwhelmingly women (93%). [PDF]
Though domestic workers are professionals who do real work everyday, domestic workers are excluded from many of the basic protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act to most other workers in the United States.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that sets guidelines on labor disputes between employees and employers excludes domestic workers and farm workers. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that guarantees U.S. workers the right to minimum wage, overtime and a day of rest each week also excludes domestic workers.
Gov. Brown may have vetoed ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ but dozens of celebrities and elected officials helped raised awareness about the conditions domestic workers face daily.
In 2010, New York State passed similar legislation to the CA Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that Governor Brown vetoed. That first-of-its-kind law established overtime pay, a day of rest, paid leave, and protection from discrimination and harassment for domestic workers. Hawai’i, Massachusetts and Illinois are also considering laws to strengthen the rights and protections for domestic workers.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance, who is responsible for passing the NY state bill, is also credited for bringing ‘The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights’ to California. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced the legislation to the state California.