Domestic workers bill of rights seeks to regulate “wild west” of labor rights abuses

Domestic workers bill of rights seeks to regulate “wild west” of labor rights abuses

Nannies, home-care workers and other domestic workers have long fallen between the cracks of employment law. Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union, a workers’ center helping low-wage earners, compared it to the “wild west”--so few labor protections that minimum-wage and overtime violations run rampant in the industry.

With a pending Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act, Illinois could join New York and California in rolling back the decades-long oversight that left domestic workers out of the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s.

State Sen. Ira I. Silverstein introduced the bill in February, and it has since been slowly picking up cosponsors.

The legislation would require anyone hiring a domestic employee or care giver to have a written contract, defined shifts that include meal breaks and rest periods, and offer paid time off. Oversight would come from the Illinois Department of Labor.

Silverstein said the legislation is “long overdue.”

“These hard-working people deserve the protections given to many other workers,” he said.

It would also amend a series of other acts to make sure domestic workers are taken into account--the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Minimum Wage Law, the Wages of Women and Minors Act, and the One Day Rest In Seven Act.

Myrla Baldonado, an organizer with the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers and a former home-care worker, said the changes would have helped protect the rights she says were trampled on in her last job.

Before becoming an organizer, she was being paid $4.50 an hour and dealing with a litany of verbal abuse while caring for a dying woman.

“There is a care crisis in the country. We need more caregivers,” said Baldonado. But it will be hard to convince them to do the work “if [they] are not included in the labor laws and miss many other benefits that regular workers are getting,”

Here’s what else we’re following in Springfield:

  • The mandatory-minimum gun legislation [HB2265] we’ve been tracking is still in the House. The Illinois Department of Corrections made its own estimate of how much the jail time mandated in the bill could cost the agency: additional operating costs of $701,712,300.
  • Legislation [HB3061] introduced Feb. 26 in the House would allow a person with low-level felony offenses--like theft, forgery or possession of a stolen vehicle--to have their records sealed.
  • Juveniles facing life in prison in Illinois could have their cases reheard under a bill [ HB1348]
    introduced in the House Feb 16th. It would eliminate mandatory life sentences for anyone who commits a crime before the age of 18 and allow those already behind bars the chance to rehear their case.
  • Home and house care workers in the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program could get a $1 an hour raise under a Senate bill, [SB2576] introduced March 12.

Photo credit: canonsnapper

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