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Housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers often toil for long hours and low wages, with few benefits or protections. That could soon change, however, thanks to new legislation drafted by Domestic Workers United (DWU), a local independent workers’ organization, and NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, as it is known, is now pending in both the State Assembly and Senate. If passed, it would guarantee domestic workers a living wage of at least $14 per hour, along with health benefits, overtime pay, at least one day off each week, paid vacation, sick days, and severance pay. The bill continues a path begun by a city law, introduced by City Councilmember Gail Brewer and passed in 2003, requiring employment agencies to inform domestic workers of their legal rights. Yet some labor laws, including the National Labor Relations Act and New York State minimum wage laws, exclude domestic workers from key provisions. “What the bill does is officially recognize domestic workers as a real workforce,” said Ai-Jen Poo, an organizer with DWU. Because their work isolates them in private homes and leaves them little free time, she explained, it has been difficult for the workers to organize. “They’re entirely vulnerable to the whims of the employer,” she said. The bill was introduced in the Assembly by Keith Wright (D-Harlem) and in the Senate by Nick Spano (R-Yonkers). It has already passed the Assembly’s Labor Committee, but must still pass the Senate Labor Committee before a vote can be scheduled. [06/12/06]

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