New report on domestic workers exposes low pay, harsh conditions, and need for labor protections

Yesterday, the National Domestic Workers Alliance–led by the amazing Ai-jen Poo–released a groundbreaking report on the work conditions faced by domestic workers (nannies, maids, caregivers, etc.) nationwide. The survey of over 2,000 domestic workers revealed the effects of race and immigration status on workers’ pay. Some troubling stats:

  • 94% of domestic workers are women.
  • 23 percent of workers are paid below the state minimum wage.*
  • Undocumented domestic workers are paid about 20% less than those who are U.S. citizens.
  • 66% of all those surveyed reported working while sick, injured or in pain. 56% of U.S.-born domestic workers and 77% of undocumented domestic workers reported working under such conditions.
  • Workers of color make up 54% of the domestic workforce.
  • The median wage for white caregivers is $12/hour; that of black and Latino caregivers is $10/hour; and $8.33 for Asian caregivers. (The exception is black nannies, who make an average $12.71/hour as opposed to $12.51 for white nannies.)

This report exposes how our nation’s blatantly discriminatory labor field reflects onto the domestic work sphere–a sphere that lacks even basic labor standards. Just last month, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have protected California’s domestic workers’ rights. 

Colorlines states:

“The report calls for basic protections—state policy that includes domestic workers in minimum wage laws; domestic workers’ access to state and federal overtime pay; and a right to meal breaks, rest days, and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep for live-in domestic workers. The policy proposals are so fundamental that they provide their own jarring portrait of the difficult, hazardous world of working inside the home.”

Just days after the historic Walmart worker strike, we are reminded that the fight for worker rights is still relevant and largely affects women and their families.

*Thanks to Becky for the correction.


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  1. Posted November 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Your second stat has a typo/is a misquote. From the report’s executive summary:
    “23 percent of workers surveyed are paid below the state minimum wage.”

  2. Posted November 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    (regarding the misquote: I see that it is the linked article at Colorlines who got the quote wrong.)

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