‘The Help’ Today Still Don’t Have Rights, Actually

Fifty years after the Jim Crow era in which this much-discussed film is set, the largely immigrant women taking care of rich people's families remain ignored by most labor protections.

By Rinku Sen Aug 11, 2011

If the release of "The Help" makes your stomach hurt, and Melissa Harris-Perry’s hilarious tweets on the film ("… man oh man, was Jim Crow full of giggling good times in the kitchen!!" ) have not provided enough relief, you can channel your angst into helping get the word out about "Today’s Help," a short video from the National Domestic Workers  Alliance. The Alliance notes that 50 years after the story of "The Help" takes place, the 2.5 million women who keep contemporary families going by cleaning their homes while looking after the young, the old and the infirm are still not covered by a large number of labor laws. Congress initially excluded domestic workers and agricultural workers from the Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Acts specifically to keep "the help" under the thumbs of their employers. These workers were incorporated into some aspects of labor law over time – that kind of discrimination being, well, illegal — but they still suffer from an almost-total lack of enforcement.

In this video, I love simply being able to see and hear real women who do this back-breaking work every day represented in all their beautiful dignity. I also love that they’re fighting back against the societal silence on their work, having won the first state bill of rights for domestic workers in New York, and the first resolution from the International Labor Organization upholding those rights globally. Help "Today’s Help" get the attention and changes they deserve by sharing this tool, and get involved in campaigns across the country by attending one of the Care Congresses that the Alliance is organizing. The next one is in California, where the state legislature is currently debating passing its own Bill of Rights.