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Big news: both candidates for mayor are supporting a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights! Here’s how it happened.
Politics has its ups and downs, but here’s something that’s heartening to see: both candidates for mayor of Seattle have released plans for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
If you’re wondering how that possibly happened, the reason is pretty simple: workers made it happen. Domestic workers in Seattle have started organizing with the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance (SDWA), headed by Working Washington. They’ve raised their issues at public forums. And they’ve built support. Now, both candidates have agreed to commit to working with them the first year in office for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and a commission to continue long-term conversations about workers’ rights and strengthening working conditions for domestic workers.
Here’s the backstory.
This summer, on June 1st, at a Who Will Work for Workers candidate forum held at the Labor Temple, candidates for mayor were asked how they would support domestic workers’ rights.
There, both candidates said they supported a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Jenny Durkan recalled her experiences as a US attorney working on human trafficking, and spoke to the need to "educate the domestic workers so they know their rights, and make sure the employers are giving the wages and benefits they have to, and make sure we’re bringing attention to that issue.”
Cary Moon called for an expansion of the Office of Labor Standards. Instead of having the responsibility for enforcement fall on nannies, she suggested the city should certify employers and show them what their responsibilities are in order to make sure domestic workers are being treated fairly.
It was good to hear both candidates were committed...but we wanted more details. So Caitlin, a Seattle nanny, followed up on June 15th, at a mayoral forum co-hosted by Working Washington and SEIU 925 focused on affordable childcare. Caitlin asked the candidates to expand on their statements of support and answer the question: “What concrete pieces would go into the Bill of Rights? How do grey market or non-union workers, like myself, build long-lasting policy change?”
Here’s how Jenny Durkan answered: “A Bill of Rights has to both protect the rights themselves, give adequate notice and education, and have enforcement. And the rights have to go to what you’re paid, what your right for breaks are, and what your benefits are. The employers have to be told, and the employees have to be told, and then there has to be an enforcement mechanism. It’s happened in a number of towns and it’s actually been successful in some areas.”
And here’s how Cary Moon answered: “I think the Bill of Rights needs to tackle several things. First it needs to talk about pay rates and overtime and the normal work rules that protect the safety of the workers and the kids. It needs to talk about staffing levels. It needs to talk about benefits. Domestic workers deserve unemployment insurance, they deserve paid sick leave, and they deserve medical insurance. And we need to provide all of those in this system... It should have a component for education for both the employers and the employees so everybody understands what the rules are, and it should have funded enforcement so the city can hold employers accountable.”
With those answers, the candidates moved from general support to something a lot more specific. And it got even better when both candidates marked Labor Day by publishing even more detailed plans for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
On November 2nd and 3rd, workers met with the candidates and asked them to sign on to a letter and agree to take the following two actions their first year in office:
Pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in the city of Seattle.
Create a city commission that facilitates negotiation of wages, working conditions, portable benefits and workers’ right to organize. The Commission would:
Include domestic workers, so they have real representation and a real voice in their industries.
Ensure a livable wage.
Have a mandate to solicit public input from their fellow workers, advocates, and industry experts on issues that affect the health and well-being of domestic workers, including wages, working conditions, and scheduling rights.
Have broad mandates to set legally binding industry standards regarding wages, benefits, working conditions and other issues.
Both candidates said YES to working on this with SDWA and Working Washington the first year they’re in office! They demonstrated to domestic workers that they’ve heard their voices, and are dedicated to making modern labor standards the reality for such a large portion of the local workforce.
These were big wins — and workers made it happen.
By getting organized, standing up, and speaking out, nannies and housecleaners with SDWA are making an impact, changing the conversation, and setting the stage for workers to continue to break new ground in Seattle.
When we heard that Trump nominated two anti-labor nominees to administrative positions at the Department of Labor, Working WA members stepped up to tell Senator Patty Murray what to ask them about at their confirmation hearings.
Cheryl Stanton, who Trump nominated as the head of the Wage and Hour Division, has spent nine years at a law firm representing big corporations that were accused of wage theft & misclassifying drivers. Not only that, she was also sued last year for failing to pay her OWN house cleaners!
And David Zatezalo, Trump’s pick for head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, is a former mining exec at a coal company. His company has been cited for 160 health & safety violations by the very agency he’s being nominated to run — including a roof collapse that killed one miner.
Washington’s own Senator Patty Murray is a key member of the committee that held confirmation hearings for Stanton & Zatezalo. Sen. Murray said she was disappointed with the timing of the hearings (which coincided with two Senate votes) and their length (just 90 minutes), which didn’t allow her to ask the questions she wanted to ask. At the end of the hearings, she said she planned to submit inquiries for the DOL nominees in writing instead.
This week, the committee narrowly approved both Stanton and Zatezalo in a 12-11 vote (with Sen. Murray voting against both), which means their nominations will be passed on to the full Senate for a vote. As the Senate decides whether to confirm these nominees, here are a few questions that hundreds of Working WA members have for them:
- Cheryl Stanton: What do you have to say about your history representing employers in wage disputes?
- Cheryl Stanton: Why haven’t you paid your own house cleaners?
- David Zatezalo: What were you doing when your company was cited in a roof collapse that killed a worker?
And here are some of the other questions we have for these anti-worker nominees…
For Cheryl Stanton, the Wage and Hour Division nominee:
- Will you advocate for employees? (Madeline, Seattle)
- How do you feel about an increase to the federal minimum wage? (Heather, Bellevue)
- How about paid maternal leave to close the wage gap? (David)
- How about pay equity for women? (Sandra, Vashon)
- What are your current investments? (Thomas)
For David Zatezalo, the Mine Safety & Health Administration nominee:
- What have you done to support workers that you think qualifies you to be in charge of Mine Safety or Health Administration? (Ronald)
- How about putting displaced coal miners to work remediating old coal mines? (David)
- Do you consider 17 mining violations/$500 thousand in fines while president of mining companies a good record? (Jerry)
- Were all your company’s violation fines paid in full? (Thomas)
- What are you doing to ensure safety inspections for the miners that won't get biased reports? (Geri, Port Townsend)
- Will you uphold OSHA regulations? (Madeline, Seattle)
For both nominees:
- What are your qualifications for this job? (Patrick, Seattle & Jean, Seattle)
- With your past record, how are you going to advocate for workers? (Jerry, Enumclaw)
- Why do you want this job? (Roseann)
- Who would you represent if nominated? (James)
- Why do you think you can represent workers, or do you just plan on giving your old bosses more breaks? (Wesley, Vancouver)
- Why do you want to advocate for workers when it is obvious that you abhor them? (Glen)
- What makes you think you can do this job? Are you familiar with the fox in the henhouse? (Dennis)
- How do you feel about the push for $15 per hour federal minimum wage? (David, Kirkland)
- With your background, why should any worker believe you're qualified and committed to protecting workers? (Paige, Shoreline)
- Whose side are you on, the workers or the employers? Can you fairly run your agencies? (Robert)
- How would you encourage union organizing? (Joan)
- They wouldn't appoint a general to lose a war. So why have an anti-labor Labor Secretary? (William)
- If you were in a worker’s position, would you feel confident in nominees with similar history as yours to represent you? (Isaac, Bothell)
- How can you expect to regulate the corporations when your employment history has been in those industries? (Randy, Seattle)
- What do you believe is the primary directive of the Dept. of Labor? Do you intend to foster or subvert it? (Richard, Vashon Island)
- What were your revenue sources in the last 5 years? How would those sources affect your administration? (Howard)
- Where do you stand on expanded labor rights for workers in the workplace? (Robert)
- You seem to believe that profit has more value than people and the planet — can you please explain? (Don, Kettle Falls)
- WHY! (Joe)
Thanks for submitting your questions for the DOL nominees & making your voice heard!
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