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Domestic Workers Inspire the Global Movement for Rights

AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka lobbies for the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights in Sacramento, California. (Photo/David Bacon)

This is an excerpt of "Domestic Workers Inspire the Global Movement for Rights" from Huffington Post, by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. 

Domestic workers around the world have been organizing for years to secure decent wages, benefits and recognition.

This past summer, domestic workers and their allies celebrated a major global victory after the Philippines joined Uruguay in becoming the second country to ratify International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

The convention addresses issues such as working conditions, wages, benefits and child labor and goes into effect one year after two countries approve it.

This milestone was reached through key partnerships between domestic workers and trade unions striving to raise the status of domestic workers on an international scale.

The AFL-CIO, which represents U.S. labor in the tripartite International Labor Organization system, included a domestic worker, Juana Flores, in its delegation so that domestic workers could have a voice and an official vote during the convening.

This effort was an important reminder of the strategic value of partnerships and how working people can stand together to advocate for and win better working conditions for all.

In the United States, the AFL-CIO has formally partnered with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) to support mutual collaborations and strengthen labor standards for domestic workers and unions.

For example, in New York State, domestic workers alongside unions worked together for six years to secure and implement a statewide Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

In 2011, the NDWA launched an effort in California to pass a bill of rights that would have required basic labor protections.

California was poised to be the second state in the country to pass this kind of legislation.

Domestic workers like Juana Flores, who worked as a nanny in California, often worked long hours with no right to overtime, a rest break or lunch. She's now the co-director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which spearheaded the campaign for the new law.

The law would have extended the rights that nearly all other workers have to domestic workers, who are primarily foreign-born and women of color.

The campaign—with strong support from the AFL-CIO, as well as faith communities, civil rights groups and celebrities—was successful.

It got the bill of rights through the state legislature. Unfortunately, California's governor failed to sign it.

By continuing the legacy of excluding legal protections for California's 200,000 nannies, housekeepers, home health aides and other domestic workers, the governor chose to side with the Chamber of Commerce, which was actively opposing the legislation.

Read the rest of "Domestic Workers Inspire the Global Movement for Rights."

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