N.Y. domestic workers seek protection amid tough times

Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:38pm EST
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advocates for New York City's army of domestic workers are responding to tough economic times with a push to win new protections for nannies, housekeepers and others at the bottom of the economic ladder.

As more domestic workers lose jobs or find their hours cut, advocates say New York may become the first U.S. state to enact a bill of rights for such workers, defined as anyone who works in a private home, such as caregivers for the elderly.

Domestic workers are covered under the state's minimum wage law but because their job arrangements are often informal they often make less than the mandated $7.15 per hour and receive no overtime pay.

They've also been hit hard by the recession, which has forced many to accept jobs at lower wages.

Monica Brathwaite, originally from Barbados, said she spent three years working 11 hours per day for a New York couple, earning $600 per week, and was fired at the end of October.

"They said the kids are in school now so grandma can pick up the kids," she said. "I'm job hunting."

Jean Joseph, who worked 24-hour shifts as a nanny for newborns, said such shifts used to pay $250 per day, but lately employers have been offering $150.

"I have jobs that have been canceled," she said. "The reason they say is because of the financial situation, but it's probably because they found someone who would do it for less."   Continued...

<p>A housekeeper cleans windows in a file photo. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>