(Lourdes Pablo, of the CA Domestic Workers Coalition, urges state lawmakers to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Photo/courtesy of Adriana Maestas )

Domestic workers urge CA lawmakers to pass Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday, a group of domestic workers and their allies gathered at the AFL-CIO Quadrennial Convention to ask California State Senators to pass AB 241, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  The bill was passed by the state’s assembly in May.  Similar legislation has passed both the California Senate and Assembly in 2006 and in 2012 and was vetoed by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown.

“Now is the time for domestic workers to be protected equally under the law,” said Lourdes Pablo, of the California Domestic Workers Coalition.

AB 241, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano, would regulate the hours of work of certain domestic workers and provide an overtime compensation rate for those employees.

A recent report by the National Domestic Workers Alliance surveying workers across the country found that almost a quarter of domestic workers are paid below the state minimum wage.  Moreover, 67 percent of  live-in workers are paid below the state minimum wage. The median hourly wage for live-in workers is $6.15. Additionally, 35 percent of domestic workers reported working long hours without taking breaks.

A 2007 report of Northern California Domestic Workers showed that 67 percent of those workers were Latina, and that 73 percent were born out of the country. Working as a domestic is often the point of entry into the U.S. workforce for many Latina immigrants.

New York and Hawaii already have domestic workers Bill of Rights laws. Massachusetts joins California in considering similar legislation. The California State Senate is expected to vote on the legislation today.

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said at the press conference at the AFL-CIO convention, “Domestic workers are fighting to be recognized around the world. At this event, union members will stand side by side in solidarity with international and local domestic workers, demanding an end to California’s exclusionary policies that prevent us from overtime protections.”

“We, the California Labor Federation and our unions, support this bill. We hope that this bill is voted on in the Senate today. We want to be sure that we can sustain the work of these people,” said Art Pelasky, the California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer. “The only way we can do that is with some provisions like overtime. We’re sure that the governor will support it.”

Last September in vetoing the previous version of the legislation, Governor Brown cited the economic impact on the disabled or elderly who hire domestic workers, while acknowledging the need for these workers to have fair pay and safe working conditions.

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