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Lady Dems Demand Job Rights For Nation's Wisecracking Maids, Nannies, Butlers
She works hard for the money so you better treat her right!
As we look forward to the eventual end of the Bad Orange Times, Democrats keep rolling out ideas that should become part of the national agenda, at least once the Current Unpleasantness is flushed. Like for instance Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's proposal for a "Green New Deal" that would both tackle climate change and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, orany of the many bills by Kamala Harris.
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris and Rep. Pramila Jayapal have co-introduced another good idea, the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights , which would extend legal protections and worker rights to the roughly two million people currently working as in-home health aides, cleaners, nannies, and so on. Yes, even the ones who don't have sitcoms based on their zany antics. It's not just a great deal for some of the lowest-paid workers in the country, it also provides a model for how work rights could be extended to a lot of people working in a variety of nontraditional labor markets.
As Harris and Jayapal point out in a CNN op-ed, (co-written with Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance), protections for domestic workers were deliberately excluded from the New Deal as the price of getting racist Southern Democrats to support the legislation. Damned if the Good Old Boys wanted sharecroppers or the cleaning lady to get any ideas about unionizing or being paid minimum wage. Likewise, the Civil Rights Act doesn't apply to most people working in homes, since it excludes employers with fewer than 15 employees. For chrissakes, domestic workers aren't even covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, probably because some clever Republican fretted Big Government would force you to provide your babysitter a Hazmat suit for diaper changes. Science fact: Many babies do emit toxic slime.
And no, however much Mrs. Brady reassures Alice she's like part of the family, she really can't be on duty 24/7. She needs her some Sam the Butcher time, know what we mean?
Eight states and the city of Seattle have already passed domestic workers bills of rights, and so far, not one of them has been plagued by mobs of unionized au pairs running wild in the streets and holding children hostage for overtime pay. A national bill to extend some job rights is an excellent idea, considering that as Boomers get older and Millennials have kids (and more two income families need childcare help), there is expected to be a national shortage of some 350,000 domestic workers by 2040, unless of course those jobs offer decent wages and worker rights. (Plus of course there's the whole "right thing to do" argument, if we're even allowed to mention something so nonutilitarian.)
So what all is in this thing? Let's deploy a Bulleted List of Wonkishness! The domestics' Bill of Rights would guarantee:
Overtime pay for workers who put in more than 40 hours a week
The right to unionize
Legal recourse against discrimination and sexual harassment, including protections against retaliation for reporting harassment or other workplace problems
Written employment agreements
Advance notice of scheduling
Scheduled meal and rest breaks
Paid sick days
Privacy protections for workers who live in employers' homes
Affordable healthcare and retirement savings
The text of the bill hasn't yet been filed, but we'd assume benefits an individual employer couldn't afford, like the health and retirement plans, would be paid into a pool, unemployment-insurance-style, to provide group benefits. At least, that's how we'd do it.
All in all, this all sounds like what you might call basic decency toward a class of workers who have been excluded for far too long from the protections most people in nine-to-five jobs take for granted. For that reason, you should probably expect to see some asshole like Ted Cruz yelling that these damned socialists want you to pay for your 14-year-old babysitter's own Depends in 60 years, and how is that fair?
Also, as the Nation points out, if this gets passed -- in 2021, say, with a Democratic president who'll sign it -- it could be adapted to provide rights and protections for
many different kinds of workers who work for multiple bosses without traditional employment structures, all of whom belong to the so-called "gig economy." Its retirement fund or enforcement task force could be deployed for, say, Uber drivers or contract workers in Amazon warehouses.
So yeah, duh. Let's do this! Workers in the home, unite. You can even keep your witty comic observations on the foibles of the middle class!