Domestic workers have been excluded from nearly all the landmark federal laws protecting workers’ rights. There is no minimum wage for domestic work, nor any guarantee of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers don’t have a right to unionize. But in recent decades, domestic workers across the country have organized to win victories that make their work safer and their lives richer. Now, a new organization, the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance (PDWA), joins the national fight.
“We represent the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia,” says Maria del Carmen Diaz, a member of PDWA. The worker-led organization launched as a joint project of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and the National Domestic Workers Alliance late last summer after a yearlong discernment process. They received a grant from Bread & Roses’ Immigration Justice Fund this spring.
Nicole Kligerman, director of PDWA, explains their strategy: “We’re bringing together women workers across language, race, and immigration status and fighting for a domestic workers’ bill of rights that will expand worker protections. We’re pushing a big campaign in city hall, but we’re also building community and developing leaders among domestic workers who are by nature of their work isolated.”
The majority of domestic workers are women of color, and many are immigrants. Diaz is one of 15 workers on the organizing committee. “On behalf of all of us, I thank Bread & Roses for their generous support, which we will use to keep fighting for our rights to win respect, dignity, equality, and identity through our domestic workers’ bill of rights.”