Blogging for domestic workers
According to salty femme, today is Blog for Domestic Workers day, timed to support JFREJ’s Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign and Domestic Workers United, who are trying to institute a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in New York State. This legislation would guarantee basic labor rights to domestic workers, who are excluded from most federal and state labor laws.
This seems like an appropriate topic for me to blog about, since I’m a new employer of a domestic worker: the woman who takes care of my 7 month old twins three days a week so I can work at JWA.
I should feel really great about my nanny situation. Christina is kind, patient, responsible, and most importantly, my babies seem to love her. I should also feel good about my own practices as an employer: we pay her a decent wage, on the books, with plenty of paid time off. (I used JFREJ’s Best Employment Practices as a model when we were hiring her).
But the truth is that I don’t feel great about it. I’m uncomfortable with my role as employer of a domestic worker in part because I wish I could raise my children without calling on the help of a stranger. I also feel uneasy because I know that the advancement of professional women is hardly a feminist triumph when it relies on the labor of other women (often – though not in this case – women of color or immigrant women), who take over the domestic duties that professional women leave behind when they go to the office. And finally, I hate the position that being an employer puts me in, of having to deal with money and other business issues with another woman who shares the intimate caregiving work of my family.
But I know that part of the work I need to do as a feminist is to face my discomfort around these issues and learn not to shy away from the difficult aspects of being an employer. Giving women’s traditional work the value it is due means bringing some of the business world into the home.
And, of course, it’s not all about me and my experience as an employer. The whole point of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights is to protect the rights of the workers, so that they are not dependent on the benevolence of their employers for fair working conditions. Like most social issues, this one requires both personal and policy change. So check out the Shalom Bayit campaign, and think about what you can do to improve conditions for domestic workers.