On Tuesday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that she’s co-sponsoring a new bill that would ensure the basic labor rights of domestic workers in the United States. The bill, called the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, was introduced by Senator Kamala Harris and Washington representative Pramila Jayapal.
Ocasio-Cortez said that one reason the bill is important to her is because her mother was a domestic worker. “As a child, I grew up reading books on the staircases of other people’s homes,” she said. “And doing homework on other people’s dinner tables, because my mom was pursuing domestic work so that I could go on field trips and have a future. When you all are fighting for this, you are fighting for little girls like me.”
The bill would guarantee a minimum wage, overtime pay and sick days for the more than 2.5 million nannies, housekeepers and care workers in the U.S., and would also require employers to give workers notice before terminating them and pay for shifts canceled last-minute. While these are all sound like very basic protections, they have not previously been extended to domestic workers, who have historically been left out of federal labor laws.
“For the first time in history, we have a chance to raise the bar for every domestic worker in our country, and set the stage for all working people,” Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “All of us deserve to work and live with safety and dignity, and this legislation ensures that no one is left behind.”
Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez and Harris teamed up on a bill that would help people with criminal records obtain housing without discrimination. “The denial of basic necessities to formerly incarcerated people does not make our communities safer,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Denying housing to those that have been formerly incarcerated increases recidivism. Today we are taking a step to make our communities safer.”