A new bill introduced in the D.C. Council aims to protect domestic workers in the city against workplace discrimination, wage theft and exploitative workloads and schedules.
Councilwoman at-large Elissa Silverman introduced the DC Domestic Workers Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022 on Tuesday. It would give domestic workers labor safeguards similar to those of employees in other industries. The bill has eight co-sponsors, Silverman said.
The legislation would extend protections from DC’s Human Rights Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Law to domestic workers, such as nannies, housekeepers and caretakers. It would also require written agreements between workers and employers that outline specific expectations, duties, pay and hours if the daily schedule exceeds five hours, Silverman said.
It is estimated that over 9,000 workers in Washington, largely immigrant women and women of color, could benefit from this law.
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Younger and older domestic workers joined Silverman Tuesday outside the John A. Wilson Building to celebrate the introduction of the legislation. Some of them shared their own stories of workplace discrimination.
“Many of my employees refused to give me a written contract, denying me a fair and safe workspace, respect and professional treatment,” Altagracia Kubinyi, a domestic worker originally from the Dominican Republic, said in Spanish.
Others told Telemundo 44 the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light just how urgent it is that domestic workers have established workplace protections, particularly in terms of work stability and health.
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“Our duty is essential. Caring for children, caring for older adults, we take care of them with integrity and love,” Antonia Surco, a leader from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said. “The truth is this pandemic made us see that now more than ever we deserve to have a place, have a bill of rights so that we are no longer excluded.”
Efforts for a bill of this nature have been pushed since at least 2019. In late 2021, Silverman promised she would present legislation this year to ensure protections for domestic workers, the Washington City Paper reported.
Ana Rojas, a retired domestic worker, said she hopes this bill passes so “we can be recognized as the human beings that we are. We support families, we take care of their children with so much love, so much respect.