Recognizing the hardships faced by many domestic workers across the globe, the International Domestic Workers' Network (IDWN) was formed in 2006 to provide a voice for the voiceless and a face for the oftentimes invisible workers who clean homes, care for children, the elderly and assist those in need.
In recognition of this incredible achievement and the outstanding work this young organization continues to do, the AFL-CIO Executive Council named the IDWN the recipients of the 2013 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award earlier this year. The award was presented by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today at the AFL-CIO Convention to a chorus of domestic workers who entered the hall singing, following a moving video of their campaign.
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Domestic workers are some of the most marginalized and exploited people in the world. They often work alone in an environment exempt from many labor standards. They serve as professional caretakers for millions, providing health and happiness for others, yet they themselves often live in precarious and vulnerable situations. Far too many domestic workers are mistreated by their employers who deny them proper pay and compensation for their work. Others are subject to enslavement and human trafficking, sent far from home to toil alone.
Since its formation, the IDWN has had success organizing and creating associations in diverse places such as the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and Kenya. They’ve produced a wealth of research into the poor workplace conditions for domestic workers across the globe and declared June 16, International Domestic Workers Day.
In 2011, their coalition helped pass the International Labor Organization Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C. 189), which for the first time recognized domestic workers as deserving of the same labor standards and workplace protections afforded to many other industries. The convention has been ratified by 11 countries. The agreement provides domestic workers with dignity and the international recognition that they are equal to many other wage earners.
Established in 1980, the Meany–Kirkland Human Rights Award recognizes outstanding examples of the international struggle for human rights through trade unions. Named after the first two presidents of the AFL-CIO, the award honors leaders and organizations who have overcome significant hurdles to fight for workers’ rights.
See a clip of Myrtle Witbooi below speaking at the convention: