By Susana Sánchez, Community Mobilization Intern
In a historic decision on June 1st the New York Senate signed into law a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (Senate bill 2311-D) becoming the first state in the country to enact a law granting labor rights to domestic workers. The law guarantees basic worker rights: an eight hour day, overtime, one day off a week, paid holidays, paid vacation and sick days, the right to collectively organize, and requires employers to give 14 day termination notice to employees. In addition, employers who violate the law might receive a civil penalty from the state commissioner.
The law is a significant gain for the labor and women’s rights movement. It has been well documented that most employers do not even see themselves as employers and their domestic workers as employees. The law begins to change that dynamic; it clearly defines domestic workers as employees under the definition of New York minimum wage law. However, one has to dig deep into the legislation to understand the extent to which this law affects women of color, particularly, undocumented immigrant women.
Domestic work, in its broad definition, has being historically performed by women of color. Currently, more than 90 percent of domestic workers are women of color. In New York, one percent or less of domestic workers was born in the U.S. Across the country Latina, Caribbean and African immigrants (mostly undocumented) have taken over the sector because many of them are undocumented and/or lack the language skills to work in other industries.