Brazilian Worker Center

Fighting for Social and Economic Justice

Massachusetts Domestic Worker Bill of Rights:  Now in Development!

Massachusetts Domestic Worker Bill of Rights nbspNow in Development
The Brazilian Immigrant Center and sister organizations of the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers spent the morning of June 16, 2012 – International Domestic Workers Day – debating their visions of what new laws are needed in Massachusetts to give respect, dignity, and equal rights to nannies, housekeepers, elderly care workers, and house cleaners. These domestic workers have long been excluded from standard US labor protections that most other workers enjoy. At the offices of SEIU 1199 health care workers union in Boston, over 125 domestic workers and their supporters gathered for their historic first congress to dialogue and debate what a Bill of Rights for Massachusetts domestic workers should include. Massachusetts hopes follow the lead of New York State, which enacted a Bill of Rights into law in 2010.

Brazilians presented a strong showing, along with Dominicans, Salvadorians, Chinese, Philippinas, and Americans, and with the help of translating equipment and interpreters, the proceedings were multi-lingual, in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, and at times Chinese. Everyone could speak from the heart in her own language, and be understood. Childcare was provided for 14 children whose mothers were attending the congress.

Several Massachusetts non-profit organizations brought teams of workers to the event, including the Brazilian Immigrant Center, Vida Verde Cooperative/Brazilian Women’s Group, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, Chinese Progressive Association, Jobs with Justice, and the Dominican Development Center. Between volunteers, workers, staff, and board members, The Brazilian Immigrant Center is happy to report that more than 30 of our members, staff, board members, and volunteers attended the event. It was thrilling to see so many Brazilian women recognizing the importance of their participation in such an historical event of great importance to our community.

The next step is to take all the information collected though workers’ discussions and transform it into legislation that will eventually become new laws to protect workers. One of the most discussed topics, for example, was the lack of respect and recognition domestic workers receive for their work. Many said: “We are yelled at, and mistreated. It is like they think we are stupid, and it’s not fair at all!” Other supporting organizations present included the Boston New Sanctuary Movement, Justice at Work, SEIU-Local 1199, SEIU-Local 615, the Hyams Foundation, the US Department of Labor OSHA and Wage & Hour Divisions, and the Berger Marks Foundation who provided funding for the convention.

The movement that led to the gathering, and that continues beyond it, began two years ago in May 2010, and could not have been possible, or able to reach this milestone event, without the support of many enlightened foundations who support our community and the cause of social justice. These foundations have given essential support to the Brazilian Immigrant Center in its domestic worker organizing, and include: the Boston Women’s Fund, the Episcopal City Mission’s Burgess Urban Fund, the Unitarian Universalist Association Foundation, the Foley Hoag Foundation, the Jewish Funds for Social Justice, the Hyams Foundation, the Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation, the Miller Innovation Fund, the Lenny Zakim Fund, the Clipper Ship Foundation, and the Haymarket People’s Fund.

The convention received inspiring addresses, with much encouragement, from Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director, and Barbara Young, National Organizer, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Lydia Edwards of the Brazilian Immigrant Center and Monique Nguyen of Matahari were co-emcees for the gathering.

updated: 6 years ago