On Wednesday, the California State Senate passed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights law that would extend labor protections to those who work in the home as housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers for the elderly and disabled. After a vote of concurrence in the Assembly on Thursday, the bill will head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D).
If signed into law, the bill would give these workers the guarantee of overtime pay. Although domestic work has been regulated in the state since 1976, according to a press release from the advocates for the bill, many are still excluded from basic labor protections like overtime.
But the last time such a bill awaited Brown’s signature he vetoed it, arguing that it would cost the state and employers too much. That was also the argument of the big business lobbies, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, who opposed the bill.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance has found that 90 percent of domestic workers in California who actually have formal contracts — which are quite rare — don’t have overtime provisions and a quarter work long hours without breaks. A quarter are paid below the state minimum wage just 2 percent get health insurance from their employers. That leads to acute financial hardship: Over 60 percent say their wages are lower than what they need to support a family and nearly the same percentage spend more than half of their income on rent. Almost a quarter had no food to eat in the last month because they couldn’t afford to buy it.
If Brown signs the bill into law, California will join New York and Hawaii as states that have expanded labor protections for domestic workers. A similar bill was passed by Oregon’s state House in May but the Senate voted it down in July.
By Bryce Covert