How A Jim Crow Era Holdover Hurts Domestic Workers Today

By Carla Murphy Oct 09, 2014

Many domestic workers in the United States are fighting to be paid for time worked. That’s about as basic as it gets for any employee. This Tuesday, according to The New York Times, the labor department delayed a rule change that would have allowed domestic workers to report employers who do not pay a minimum wage or overtime. Although this particular exclusion dates to the early 70s, rules specifically excluding domestic workers–mainly Latinas and immigrants–from minimum labor protections date back to Jim Crow. In The Case For Reparations, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates earlier this year chronicled a century of theft from black workers while federal programs expanded the white middle class. That included black women domestics:

The omnibus [New Deal] programs passed under the Social Security Act in 1935 were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life. Old-age insurance (Social Security proper) and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics–jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible. The NAACP protested, calling the new American safety net "a sieve with holes just big enough for the majority of Negroes to fall through." 

Read more about this latest setback for domestic workers as well as how many of these women are organizing, here.