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Brazilian Worker Center

Fighting for Social and Economic Justice

Portugues

Domestic Worker Movement

Brazilian Immigrant Center Seeks Partners for its new Domestic Worker Organizing Initiative

Brazilian Immigrant Center Seeks Partners for its new Domestic Worker Organizing Initiative
Building on its 15 years of experience as an active workers’ center organizing and serving immigrant workers in metropolitan Boston, the Brazilian Immigrant Center (BIC) has recently begun a new organizing initiative. Following models offered by movements of domestic workers in the states of New York and California, as well as in Brazil, BIC has begun organizing Brazilian domestic workers and seeks to forge a wider coalition with other immigrant-serving organizations and workers’ centers, for the purpose of helping domestic workers to organize for workplace justice, and to achieve new Massachusetts legislation that better recognizes and protects their rights as workers.    

BIC’s movement in this new direction comes from its concern to bring more gender balance and equity to the way in which we define our own constituency and our organizing priorities.  We have also been inspired by the recent successes in New York State to realize there is something we can accomplish here in Massachusetts to better advocate for and support women workers in the domestic service industry. For Brazilian women, in particular, who make up half the working members’ of our community, domestic work is in fact the primary sector in which they work.  No matter what your class background is, if you have limited English skills when you arrive in the US, your first job as a woman will most likely be in domestic service.

We have already taken the first steps toward organizing, by visiting New York’s Domestic Workers United on September 4, 2010 for guidance, by asking domestic workers close to us at BIC to meet and discuss what the key ingredients would be for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in Massachusetts, and by developing some initial proposals to begin our discussion.   We have two domestic workers active on our Board, and we are plan a community gathering of Brazilian domestic workers, as well as outreach to women from other immigrant communities. We have already had preliminary discussions with several organizations outside the Brazilian community, and we are proud to partner with the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) in this effort.

A major issue is how to define the scope of the domestic worker population in Massachusetts, and to understand what are the proportions of elder care workers, companions, babysitters, nannies, housekeepers, and house cleaners within that workforce.   We think that the New York City based model of DWU, for example, mostly is based on the needs of full-time, mostly live-in housekeepers and nannies, but believe that the domestic worker population in Massachusetts are more likely to be live-out and part-time, and heavily weighted to house cleaners and other day laborers for small firms.  We plan to follow the models of Domestic Workers United of  New York and Mujeres Unidas y Activas of California, as well as Brazil’s own domestic worker law,  and conduct a survey of domestic workers, with workers gathering the information,  in order to gauge working conditions, identify problems, define the structure of the labor market, and understand what organizing possibilities exist in the Massachusetts.  The women we have spoken with have made clear that any new legislation must address issues such as overtime, sick leave, independent contracting, protection against workplace hazards, sexual harassment, discrimination against pregnancy, and the need for advance notice of job termination. We also have already discussed new legislation with several members of the Massachusetts legislature, and have three members – two in the Senate and one in the House – who have expressed interest in sponsoring appropriate reform legislation.

We were happy to be part of a recent wider meeting that has already occurred with several other Massachusetts organizations with an interest in this effort, that took place on Friday November 19 under the auspices of the National Alliance of Domestic Workers.  BIC board member Lydia Edwards met with representatives from Professional Nannies of Massachusetts, Vida Verde Cooperative, Matahari, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), and the Dominican Development Center to begin wider discussion of domestic worker organizing possibilities in Massachusetts.  A follow-up meeting for all interested groups has been scheduled for December 7, 2010 at the offices of WILD at 33 Harrison Avenue, 5th Floor, Boston.   BIC will also be having its next meetings with Brazilian domestic workers on Tuesday December 14 and on Wednesday January 12, both at 7 pm at the BIC offices located at 14 Harvard Avenue, Allston. Light refreshments will be served. We invited all interested parties to attend.  For more information, contact us at:  ntracy@braziliancenter.org or 617-783-8001.


updated: 6 years ago