Invisible No More: Domestic Workers Organizing in Massachusetts and Beyond

TitleInvisible No More: Domestic Workers Organizing in Massachusetts and Beyond
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsTracy, Natalicia, Sieber, Tim, and Moir, Susan
JournalUniversity of Massachusetts Boston Scholar Works
Date Published2014/10//
Keywordsdomestic workers, Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, low-wage workers, Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

Domestic workers across the country are making it clear that, even in a difficult political environment, it is possible to make gains for low-wage workers. For the first time in many, many decades, domestic workers are finding ways to win. They are creating policy change that will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in tangible and substantial ways. The 2014 Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights is the most expansive codification of rights for this long-overlooked part of the labor force ever to be enacted. In one sense, there is nothing new about domestic workers organizing for better wages and working conditions. From the days of the Atlanta washer- women’s strike at the end of the 19th century through the household employee organizing of the 1960s and 70s, women have joined together to challenge an industry in which, traditionally, they have been poorly compensated and routinely over- worked. But today’s domestic worker movement, while building on the past, is also breaking new ground. It has generated new political protagonists – the immigrant nannies, housecleaners and elder care- givers who now make up a substantial segment of the work force and whose commitment to organizing is the foundation of today’s victories. It has been strategically innovative, winning campaigns for domestic worker bills of rights in four states, with more to come. It has welcomed and built upon the support of allies from organized labor, immigrant and workers’ rights groups, leaders from a range of faith communities, and ethically oriented employers. And it has networked and organized with women from around the world to win the very first international convention for domestic workers’ rights. Today’s domestic workers’ movement is a sustained and growing effort that draws upon and fertilizes the transformative vision and innovative organizing of communities of color, immigrant communities, low-wage workers and women of color. Domestic workers have stepped into their power. Their victories are expanding the realm of the possible, not only for themselves, but also for all who are committed to worker justice and dignity.