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Congresswoman Jayapal pushes for National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who represents Washington’s 7th Congressional District, joined California Senator Kamala Harris and Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in authoring an op-ed published by CNN yesterday. The op-ed announces the lawmakers’ intention to introduce a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

A “domestic worker” is a person who works in their employer’s household — as a nanny or housecleaner, for example. Often, domestic workers are women of color and immigrants. They’re generally excluded from many workplace protections, like a guarantee of minimum wage and rest breaks. The recent op-ed makes a case for a new Bill of Rights that would work to change that.

“This Bill of Rights would close legal loopholes excluding domestic workers from certain federal labor and civil rights laws,” the op-ed explains. “The legislation would also create meal and rest breaks, and establish fair scheduling practices, as well as strengthening support networks for domestic workers who are survivors of workplace sexual harassment and assault.”

It would also include grants for training programs, urge for benefits like paid sick days, protect domestic workers against employer retaliations if they report issues, and create a federal task force to enforce workers’ rights.

Seattle became the first city in the country to enact a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights earlier this year. The ordinance, as passed, established standards and structures in-line with most of what Jayapal and others are hoping to establish nationwide. According to a survey by Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance, there are over 30,000 domestic workers in Seattle alone — 56 percent were working without a written contract at the time of the survey.

Eight states have enacted similar Bills of Rights for domestic workers, including California, Oregon, and Hawaii. Washington has not enacted a statewide Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, at this point, according to an interactive infographic on the City of Seattle’s website. It says efforts are “ongoing” at the state level. We’ve reached out for an update on any statewide progress on the issue and will edit this story if we hear back.