Domestics: Tell Governor Brown Domestic Workers Are Workers

Hundreds of thousands of domestic workers will remain unprotected by state law while at work following Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of AB889. While Brown acknowledged they were doing “noble work”, he felt there were “too many unanswered questions” about the bill’s contents. A fair portion of his questions expressed concern for the employer, not the domestic worker.

The measure would have provided meal breaks, overtime pay, and rest periods during long shifts. Opponents of AB889, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, argued that allowing domestic workers to have such provisions would be “impractical at best and dangerous at worst.”

Cost effectiveness is something that should be considered in the course of any measure, but not at the expense of workers’ safety. This sort of logic is not tolerated at other levels of business. Domestic work should be no exception. There is a tendency to overlook the importance of domestic workers and to ignore the fact that they are indeed workers. Working in an environment previously deemed the private sphere is no justification for denying over 200,000 individuals their rights.

Their place within the home and their performance of duties that are not traditionally viewed as the task of a non-family member have somehow earned them a place below that of other working class individuals. Brown claimed that domestic work is a “noble endeavor”. If that’s so, why doesn’t it warrant the protections granted to all other occupations of similar status and pay?

Additionally, a large percentage of domestic workers in California are female immigrants. Advocates of this legislation have explained that the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights would provide them with some sorely needed protections. By vetoing this bill, Governor Brown has denied domestic workers their civil rights and forced them to face unsafe working conditions with no means of recourse.

Mackenzie Becker