When Maria Roa arrived in Medellin 10 years ago, her primary focus was to provide a better life for her three children. She took a job as a domestic worker, as many Afro-Colombian women do, but quickly realized the position was underpaid and overworked. Despite the nature of this physically and emotionally challenging work, domestic workers like Maria have been successful in their organizing efforts to form a new union to combat workplace discrimination, improve benefits and establish job security.
As Women’s History Month continues, it’s important to highlight the often unsung heroes doing great work that continues to push the union movement forward, like domestic workers and groups advocating on their behalf. For many of us, domestic workers are the backbone of our household, providing general family care, housekeeping and home health care. They are responsible for some of the most vital and intimate work in our nation, and yet the law does not guarantee them the same protections they guarantee our families.
Some 52 million people older than 15—primarily women—labor as domestic workers around the world, according to a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of those, 83 percent are women. The vast number of domestic workers, 21.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific region, with 19.6 million in Latin America, 5.2 million in Africa and 2.1 million in the Middle East.
Workers at Walmart need public assistance to afford heating their homes. Workers at Wendy's and McDonald's need food stamps to survive. As more and more jobs get shipped overseas, workers in the United States are clinging to the jobs that can't be easily outsourced: food service, domestic care and retail. People all over the country are taking bold actions to shed light on the poor working conditions they face.
In 2010, New York ratified landmark legislation for domestic workers, a group excluded from the legal protections—such as the right to organize and collectively bargain—granted by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights gave domestic workers the right to overtime pay, paid days of rest and protection against sexual or racial harassment.
Domestic workers, such as caregivers and nannies, make all forms of other work possible and play an increasingly significant role in the U.S. economy. However, a new national study found, on average, domestic workers earn little more than minimum wage and few receive benefits like Social Security, health insurance or paid sick days.
This is a cross-post from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, by Tula Connell.
Nicaragua this week became the third country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic workers. An ILO “convention” sets international labor standards, and the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention addresses issues such as working conditions, wages, benefits and child labor while requiring nations to take measures making decent work a reality for domestic workers.
The women and men—mostly women—who care for our aging and ill relatives, providing both physical and emotional support, sometimes for many years, are among a workforce that has long been underpaid, overlooked and, all-too-often, looked down upon. Yet these home health aides, personal care assistants and domestic workers toil in occupations described by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as among the fastest growing in the United States.
From the Arab uprisings to the international recognition of the rights of domestic workers, 2011 was a turning point for millions of workers around the globe. The AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center, whose mission is to support workers in building independent trade unions around the world, partnered with workers and their unions as they organized for better working conditions, greater social protections, more fair labor laws and increased democracy and equity in their countries.
In its just-released 2011 Annual Report, the Solidarity Center shows how its staff in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas partnered with workers and their unions organizing for better working conditions and for the fundamental rights denied to them.
If you're a progressive activist seeking to make economic change, delving into the role of "derivatives" or other arcane discussions likely results in blank stares. Which is why Erica Payne, founder of the Agenda Project says that progressives need to cut through the right-wing noise and talk about what's really happening to the U.S. economy. For Payne, explaining the recession isn't complicated: "A bunch of rich privileged guys stole our money."