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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
HomenewsIt's Time to Remove NJ's Exclusion of Domestic Workers from Labor Rights

It’s Time to Remove NJ’s Exclusion of Domestic Workers from Labor Rights

In the past decade, New Jersey has been a leader in passing laws that have improved the lives of employees, such as the temporary workers bill of rights, but domestic workers in the state have remained excluded from fundamental labour protections.

I have previously argued that, at this time of worker organising activity, it is vital that policymakers recognise that domestic workers are not covered by present labour rights safeguards.

In particular, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which were both enacted in the 1930s, continue to exclude domestic employees from basic labour rights protections. These labour law exclusions from the Jim Crow era continue to subject this predominantly Black, immigrant, and low-income American workforce to exploitation and discrimination.

As we conclude the month-long celebration of Black History Month and approach the state budget negotiation process in February, advocates and labour leaders recommit to urging legislators to rectify this grave injustice and support the domestic workers’ worker rights agenda.

Domestic workers are requesting that the NJ Legislature protect their dignity and support their ability to receive the same basic workplace protections as every other worker in New Jersey, including the right to a minimum wage, a meal break, scheduled time off, sick leave, and health and safety on the job. Remember that these are fundamental rights, but because a domestic worker’s workplace is a private residence, they are not guaranteed to any of them.

Currently, domestic workers are actively discriminated against under New Jersey law. Domestic workers, for instance, continue to be exempt from the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Fair Pay Act and the Worker Health and Safety Act.

Domestic employees (i.e., home care workers, nannies, and house cleaners) in New Jersey are disproportionately affected by pay theft compared to workers in other industries. Some domestic employees face sexual harassment and abuse, but have little legal remedy.

Domestic employment is one of the most important industries in the United States since it influences every area of our life. Domestic workers care for our children, our homes, our ageing parents, and other members of our family who require in-home care. According to Ai-jen Poo, president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, “domestic work enables every other work.”

The question therefore becomes, why haven’t domestic employees yet gained access to labour protections? Because big business groups with great economic resources continue to campaign against reform in Trenton, contending that any improvement in labour rights for homecare workers is a hindrance to their enterprise’s ability to generate profits.

Even after a global pandemic made it evident that vital care workers deserve fundamental rights, home-care industry interests in New Jersey are determined to maintain the current quo of cheap and replaceable domestic and home care labour.

Sindy Sachez, a New Jersey home care worker, puts it best: “Home care organisations do not want us to take rest and meal breaks or time off because they know we do the work of two people and are paid a pittance; someone is profiting while we barely survive.”

Thousands of domestic workers in New Jersey, such as Sindy Sanchez, are aware that their dignity is at stake in their fight for basic labour rights.

Yet, as consumers of care, we should equally consider their situation as workers. It is time for us to support legislation that protect the basic rights and well-being of care workers so they can care for our loved ones.

As Black History Month comes to a close, we appreciate the sponsors of the present legislation (A882/S723) and ask all Legislators who care about justice to join us in favour of the New Jersey Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Domestic workers are vital to the New Jersey economy and should be protected, respected, and adequately compensated for their work.

It is imperative that state legislators enact this bill so that New Jersey domestic workers can join others in other states, such as New York, Connecticut, and California, who have already taken action to safeguard domestic workers.

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Parvesh
Parvesh
Parvesh is the Content Writer for New Jersey Local News. Here at New Jersey Local News, she covers local news of New Jersey state. Moreover, Parvesh likes to dance and listen to music. She also finds time in her hectic schedule to relax and spend time with loved ones.
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