NY Domestic Workers Celebrate Historic Labor Win

It's official: Gov. Paterson signed into law yesterday new rights for New York State's domestic workers yesterday. Their movement may be a national model for reform.

By Michelle Chen Sep 01, 2010

Domestic workers in New York came out from behind closed doors and took to the streets on Tuesday when Governor Paterson signed landmark legislation to recognize and protect the state’s nannies, housekeepers and other home-based laborers.

Advancing the state, national and global struggles for domestic workers’ rights, the new law guarantees overtime pay, access to worker compensation, and cracks open the door to a legislative process for granting collective bargaining rights.

As we’ve reported before, the bill was a hard-won compromise, having shed some demands like paid sick days. But it nonetheless represents a potential model for other states (including California, where the National Domestic Workers Alliance has undertaken a similar campaign). The next step is to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to give domestic workers–a workforce dominated by women of color and immigrants–the same protections that their male peers won decades ago.

Rallying around the Harriet Tubman memorial in Harlem on Tuesday, activists with Domestic Workers United faced a long road ahead to correct historical injustices, but they’ve got plenty of momentum behind them now.