This is great news. The bill that New York is considering also protects workers who are undocumented, and requires a series of basic workplace protections:
The State Senate this week passed a bill that would require paid holidays, sick days and vacation days for domestic workers, along with overtime wages. It would require 14 days’ notice, or termination pay, before firing a domestic worker.
The Assembly passed a similar measure last year, and lawmakers expect that the two versions will be reconciled and that Gov. David A. Paterson will sign what they say would be the nation’s first such protections for domestic workers. It would affect an estimated 200,000 workers in the metropolitan area: citizens, legal immigrants and those here illegally as well.
This is long overdue, and it’s a shame that New York is the first state to pass legislation like this (assuming it’s signed, which it looks like it will be). There is some question as to whether it will actually help undocumented workers, who may be hesitant to report violations, but it is a step in the right direction. And other types of workers in New York — deliverymen, grocery store employees — have successfully challenged workplace violations, even where some of the individuals were not here legally.
The bill will also give workers more negotiating power, and will help people who hire domestic workers to parse out what is fair and what isn’t.
But for nannies and parents alike, the legislation, if enacted, could well create a kind of baseline for negotiations over pay, hours and benefits. Now, the dealings typically leave both sides unsure of what is fair, and in the end, employers sometimes feeling guilty and employees feeling shortchanged.
“We are really looking toward healing the divide between employee and employee,” said Sara Fields, program director at the advocacy group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
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