Nannies Close to Winning Labor Rights

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By Dan Rivoli

Nannies and other domestic employees in New York have been working in the shadows of the city’s economy. They cook, clean and watch children so parents can pursue careers—all without a guarantee of needed time off or other job benefits that many employees take for granted.

Last week, all 32 Democratic State Senators and one Republican voted for legislation that guarantees the 200,000 domestic workers in the metropolitan area paid holidays, sick days, vacation, a day off each week and overtime pay. Employers would be required to give their nanny at least two weeks notice if they want to fire them. Domestic workers would be allowed to sue if the new regulations are violated, and their bosses could face criminal charges.

“This law is, in a sense, a message that domestic workers are real workers, that homes are workplaces and that these workers deserve to have rights and deserve to be protected like other workers,” said Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United, a group that lobbied for the legislation.“What we hope comes out is a law that guarantees basic labor rights that they otherwise wouldn’t able to negotiate for themselves.”

The Assembly passed a bare-bones version of the bill last year that provides overtime pay and a day off per week. Now that the State Senate pushed through a more robust legislation, the two chambers will reconcile the different pieces of legislation for the governor to sign.

Gov. David Paterson has expressed support for such a bill, but his spokesperson said he is uncommitted to signing the legislation at this point.

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