Albany, New York – On Sunday, February 27th, 2005 at a press conference in the on the steps of City Hall, Assemblyman Wright (70th AD – Central and Western Harlem) and Domestic Workers United announced the first step toward a statewide initiative to bring the workforce out of the shadows of slavery. Assemblyman Keith Wright has re-introduced a groundbreaking proposal for a "Domestic Workers Bill of Rights" which would account for generations of slavery-like conditions faced by an estimated 250,000 women working in this industry statewide, as stated in Bill A.2804.
The proposal comes out of a convention of nearly 300 domestic workers from across New York State organized by Domestic Workers United (DWU), a group of domestic workers and domestic worker organizations working to raise the level of respect and recognition for the workforce as a whole.
The "Bill of Rights" addresses the historical exclusion of domestic workers from state labor protections, which has resulted in unchecked abuse and exploitation in the workplace. It also accounts for the unique challenges domestic workers face in negotiating working conditions with their employers. The proposal levels the playing field by mandating paid holidays, vacation, and sick days among other provisions.
"Some employers feel that because it is their home, that they can set the rules but a workplace is a workplace," says Carolyn Hermogenes, a former nanny and advocate for DWU. "With the Bill of Rights, employers will recognize we are protected by real laws and not their servants," says Hermogenes.
Yolande Lewis, a West Indian housekeeper and member of DWU, believes change is long overdue, "I have been a domestic worker in Long Island for fifteen years. All I want is for those of us who have spent our lives caring for others, to be treated as real workers. Just basic respect, that’s all."
The proposal has received the support of a broad range of organizations and institutions including; New York State AFL-CIO, the New York Immigration Coalition as well as 27 other advocacy organizations. "This unspoken racism will come to an end, and with this legislation we ensure that workers at any level receive the same protections. This is just one step to a more equitable and prosperous New York," said Wright.