In a key victory for working people around the world, on Monday the Philippines became the second country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic work. An ILO “convention,” which sets international labor standards, must be ratified by a nation-state’s government for it to become the law in that nation. The Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention (ILO Convention No. 189)—which addresses issues such as wages, working conditions, benefits, labor brokers and child labor—goes into effect one year after two countries approve it. Uruguay ratified C. 189 in April of this year.
ILO Convention 189 helps protect the rights and welfare of domestic workers, who care for families and households around the world. The convention helps provide domestic workers with the same rights and benefits as other workers. The move is part of both local and global efforts to promote labor standards for nannies, caregivers and other domestic workers, who have been historically excluded from labor laws and subject to various forms of exploitation and abuse.
In an increasingly globalized economy, C. 189 serves as a critical international instrument to raise the status and protections of the millions of domestic workers worldwide, including those who migrate overseas in search of work. With more than 2.5 million Filipino domestic workers employed worldwide, including many in the United States, the Philippines has taken an important step in making the fulfillment of the rights of domestic workers a reality on an international scale.
The convention requires the respect and promotion of the inalienable rights at work of domestic workers, which include:
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor.
- Effective abolition of child labor.
- Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
The ratification of C. 189 is an important global bolster for domestic workers both in the United States and overseas. Although domestic workers in the United States are excluded from many of the protections available to other workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act, they have organized a growing national movement to claim their dignity and rights as workers.
Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, was present during the adoption of the ILO Convention in Geneva in 2011 and said,
This convention strengthens the voice of domestic workers in the United States who continue to organize, mobilize and advocate for the full realization of our basic human rights. As we work to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in California and other states, as we have in New York, we now know we have the support of both the U.S. government and the international community. Knowing this emboldens us and gives us strength to continue fighting for the protections and benefits we, like all workers, deserve.
The Domestic Workers Alliance has helped lead important efforts in empowering domestic workers and legislating state-level bill of rights. In May 2012, the AFL-CIO and the Domestic Workers Alliance formed a historic partnership to work together to advance the voices of all workers both in the United States and abroad.
Juana Flores, of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (Women United and Active) of San Francisco, who represented U.S. domestic workers at the ILO as part of the AFL-CIO delegation, said,
So many women throughout the world have never been recognized for their labor. With this convention, the world is recognizing, for the first time, that domestic workers are workers like any other and deserve the same treatment. I feel incredibly proud to have been able to represent the domestic workers of the United States in this process.