Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Finally Signed into Law

by Judy Patrick

jpatrickI would hope that a lot of the work that we do is rewarding. But we still have to get paid for it.

That’s why I was shocked to learn that the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) said otherwise in 1976 when they deemed caregiving a “source of rewarding activity” conducted by individuals “merely for supplemental income.”

And, just like that, an entire group of people—for the most part women—was excluded from basic labor protections that apply to most workers in California.

This decision basically declared that women who take care of our children, care for our elderly and cook and clean in our homes are not real workers deserving of real pay and equal protection.  

It’s shocking enough to know that a decision like this was made in 1976, but it was even more shocked knowing that this kind of undervaluing of women’s work was perpetuated into 2013.

This year, we had an opportunity to right this wrong and achieve fairness in the workplace. And we did!

On September 26, 2013, we witnessed history in Sacramento. Governor Brown signed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, giving more than 100,000 domestic workers—the majority of them women—the right to earn overtime pay.

This bill, AB 241, has been a long time in the making. Two Women’s Policy Institute teams worked on a version of this bill. Both times the bill passed the Assembly and the Senate, but was vetoed in the final hour by Governor Schwarzenegger and then Governor Brown.

Congratulations to the incredible, inexhaustible and powerful women advocates behind the California Domestic Worker Coalition. Our long-time grant partner, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, played a huge role in this victory and they deserve our heartfelt thanks!


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