California Governor signs Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights passed by the state's legislature. Yesterday, he signed a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights that is watered down from its original version but takes the important step of extending overtime protections to nannies and other in-home employees. Domestic workers will earn overtime pay for working more than nine hours a day or 45 hours in a week (higher than the federal cutoff of 40 hours per week). The bill no longer contains the rest and meal breaks from the original version, and it will sunset after three years.

California is the third state to pass legislation protecting domestic workers' rights. Earlier this year, Hawaii adopted legislation that extends coverage of the state's wage-and-hour law to domestic workers and establishes protections against discriminatory practices. New York passed the nation's first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010, requiring that in-home workers receive overtime pay for working more than eight hours per day and be protected from discrimination and harassment.

The Department of Labor's recently finalized rule to extend Fair Labor Standards Act wage and overtime protections to home care workers will require minimum-wage and overtime pay for home health aides, personal care aides, and other workers who provide in-home care to elderly and disabled clients (starting on January 1, 2015). That regulation does not affect nannies and housekeepers, while California's bill does.

At The Nation, Laura Flanders considers why Governor Brown signed this bill after vetoing last year's version:

A slightly broader version of [Assemblyman Tom] Ammiano’s bill passed last year, only to be vetoed by the governor. What made the difference?

“Last year was hard. Getting up the next day was really difficult,” said Laphonza Butler, president of the SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, about the governor's veto last September. The SEIU ULCW was part of the broad coalition that worked with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the California Domestic Workers Coalition both years. This year's bill was known as AB 241.

For all the tweeting on announcement day, it wasn’t short-form social media so much as hard-slog footwork and long-term coalition building that turned things around in 2013, Butler said. “What made the difference was a lot of community and worker activity that made the governor realize we’ve got to do something about an economy that keeps workers in poverty.”

Finances came in too. A year ago, Governor Brown was focused on solving the state’s deficit. Frustrated as they were by the vetoing of their bill, the coalition behind the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights put their person-power behind passing Proposition 30. Officially, “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education” Proposition 30—to increase taxes—was approved by California voters by a margin of 55 to 45 percent in November 2012.

Ai Jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, tells
Flanders that Massachusetts will be the site of the next big campaign to win labor rights for domestic workers. R.M. Arrieta writes for In These Times that organizations are also pushing for similar bills in Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and Connecticut.

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