Philly Council passes bill to extend labor protections for domestic workers

By: - November 2, 2019 6:30 am

The crowd cheers after City Council passes a “bill of rights” for domestic workers during its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Ayana Jones)

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s domestic workers are slated to receive new labor protections due to a bill passed unanimously by City Council.

The legislation now goes to Mayor Jim Kenney.

“Worker protections are key to fighting poverty and restoring the dignity of work,” said Lauren Cox, a spokeswoman for the Kenney administration, in an e-mailed statement. “We’re proud Philadelphia is taking action to support domestic workers, and the mayor looks forward to signing this bill into law.”

Nicole Kligerman, director of the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance, said the move represents a huge win for domestic workers.

“Domestic workers have been excluded from all labor protections in the history of the U.S,” she said. “Today, for the first time, Philadelphia domestic workers have won the same rights and protections that all other workers have in Philadelphia. We’re the largest city to do so and it’s the best law in the country.”

The domestic workers — many of whom are undocumented women of color earning an average annual wage of $10,000 — have been fighting for a bill of rights for more than a year. Some of the workers shared their stories before City Council.

“The women have bravely told their stories about non-payment and sexual harassment and despite their challenges whether they are undocumented or not, they have helped us put together not only best piece of legislation, but a task force that is going to ensure the implantation with a comprehensive education campaign,” said City Councilwoman Maria Quinoñes-Sánchez, the main sponsor of the legislation.

“For me, the process of empowering them to tell us how to help protect them was a huge part it and they were just tremendously courageous.”

The new legislation requires employers to provide the city’s approximately 16,000 domestic workers — including home health aides, nannies and housekeepers — with a written contract that lays out duties, hourly wages, overtime, meal breaks, weekly schedules, paid time off and the manner of payment.

The bill also allows for a portable benefit structure that would allow workers to accrue and use benefits even when working for multiple employers.

A resolution was also passed to create a nine-member task force charged with analyzing and making recommendations to council and the Mayor’s Office of Labor on the legal protections, benefits and working conditions for domestic workers.

The bill calls for the city to mandate employers to provide termination notices to workers and require they maintain employment records, among other things. The legislation also outlaws employer retaliation.

Patrick Eliding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, which represents more than 100 unions, spoke Thursday in support of the domestic workers legislation.

Nine states have passed legislation providing some form of protections for domestic workers, including New York and California. Seattle, Washington, is the only city to pass such legislation, which gives domestic workers the right to a set minimum wage, rest breaks and meal breaks.

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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