On Anniversary of Historic ILO Convention, Domestic Workers Speak Out Worldwide
By caring for our homes and loved ones, domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible. Unfortunately, the important labor of some 100 million domestic workers worldwide frequently goes unrecognized. In fact, domestic workers are vulnerable to labor exploitation, sexual assault and even forced labor and trafficking because they are mainly women, their workplace is behind closed doors and, in many places, they still are not covered under labor laws. In the United States, domestic workers are excluded from the most basic fairness and safety regulations on the job, including minimum wage and hour laws.
In recent years, however, a growing movement of domestic workers has been fighting for change and winning notable gains at the local, national and international levels. On June 16, 2011, after years of building momentum, domestic workers and unions working together at the International Labor Organization (ILO) won the ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention (C. 189), mandating decent work and core labor standards for domestic workers. Since then, June 16 has held great importance for the domestic workers movement, which has declared the date International Domestic Workers Day.
On this International Domestic Workers Day, workers everywhere—from Cambodia to Turkey to Korea to New York and San Francisco—celebrate the growing movement for domestic workers' rights and continue to fight to ensure that every country covers domestic workers under labor protections. The International Domestic Workers Federation also recently play a critical role in the successful negotiation of a new ILO treaty, the forced labor protocol, which puts forward new regulations to combat modern forms of forced labor.
The progress domestic workers have won internationally has been made possible by support from broad local movements. In the United States, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), an AFL-CIO partner, fights for local, state and national policy changes to extend labor protections to domestic workers. In New York, Hawaii and California, they have worked to pass laws that recognize the value of work and provide legal protections to domestic workers, including overtime protections, and are continuing campaigns in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Illinois.
In Washington, D.C., domestic worker organizations have exposed a number of abuses, including wage theft and human trafficking, in the homes of diplomatic officials and have provided important protections for victims. Embassy officials are able to skirt punishment for violating labor law due to their diplomatic immunity. Not long ago, another case of a domestic worker facing forced labor and wage theft was uncovered in the home of a Kenyan Embassy official. Lucy, the domestic worker involved, and CASA de Maryland are currently campaigning to receive compensation and back pay from the Kenyan Embassy.
Today, we recognize not only the important work of domestic workers, but also stand in solidarity with the remarkable domestic workers' movement, which has been making a difference in the lives of millions of workers.
If you are in the D.C. metro area and are interested in domestic workers' issues, please come to a discussion Tuesday evening, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the Institute for Policy Studies with NDWA.
Story Type: News