Invisible to powerful: Domestic workers make history

Last month, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass a groundbreaking municipal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which ensures nannies & housecleaners working in Seattle get the basic rights and benefits every worker needs, and creates a new way to set higher industry standards & make further advances.

Until now, few nannies and house cleaners have had access to basic rights and benefits. Some have even been excluded from the minimum wage. And there’s been no good way for workers to come together to set industry-wide standards and improve conditions.

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The new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights brings domestic workers from invisible to powerful by:

  • Covering all part-time, full-time, independent contractors, and live-in domestic workers in the city — regardless of whether they are technically employed by an agency or a family, and regardless of whether they are classified as employees.
  • Ensuring all domestic workers are covered by the minimum wage and receive rest breaks.
  • Establishing a Domestic Workers Standards Board which includes workers, employers, and community representatives and has the power to establish industry-wide standards on wages, benefits, training, and other issues.

The Domestic Workers Standards Board is a breakthrough step for workers' rights in Seattle and across the country — a new model of worker power being led by women and people of color who have been too long excluded from other basic legal protections.

Here's how it happened.

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We organized.

Nannies, housecleaners, and other domestic workers with Working Washington, Casa Latina, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance have been organizing for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights for more than a year.

We shared our stories.

We publicly kicked off our campaign in December with a major event where elected officials heard from nannies and housecleaners and signed on in support of a citywide Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

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We showed our numbers.

In March, we assembled a large-scale display of diapers and gloves at Seattle City Hall, representing each of the housecleaners and nannies in the Seattle area — one diaper for each nanny (about 8,000), one glove-finger for each house cleaner (about 7,000). We also released a report analyzing the conditions facing domestic workers in the city.

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We broke down doors.

In June, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda introduced a breakthrough Domestic Workers Bill of Rights — so we broke through some doors of our own at City Hall!

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And we made history.

Passing the Bill of Rights means domestic workers in Seattle have ended their exclusion from basic labor standards. They've won important new rights and protections. And most importantly, they've won a whole new model of worker power — a first-in-the-nation Domestic Workers Standards Board which empowers workers & employers to come together to effectively set industry standards on wages, benefits, training, and other issues.

This is a huge step forward. It’s another breakthrough victory for Working Washington members. And just like $15, secure scheduling, paid family leave, and other historic steps for workers rights, it shows how much we can accomplish when come together, speak out, and take action.

Thank you to all the Working Washington members who have gotten us to this point. And if you’re not a member yet, now is the perfect time to join!

gig workers speak out

Gig economy workers with Working WA have been meeting for months to talk about what's working and what needs to change about their jobs and the apps they work for. And last week, they took the first step in bringing benefits & better pay to the gig economy: they made their voices heard at our Gig Worker Speak-Out.

If you couldn't make it, don't worry! You can still hear straight from Instacart shoppers, Doordash drivers, Lyft drivers, and more about the good, bad, & ugly of their jobs by checking out the video here or reading the recap below.

Then, click here to get involved. We need customers, workers, and supporters alike on board to start holding companies like Doordash, Instacart, and Uber accountable for improving working conditions & wages.

"I feel more freedom working in the gig economy. We can make our own schedule. That's what I really like. But in my point of view, the most important thing for workers in the gig economy is health insurance and retirement. Everybody needs to have a safety net. It's good for the companies and it's good for the workers."

— Wafiullah, Lyft driver, Kent

"In mid-2015, I was shopping for Instacart, on an order that had multiple cases of liquid. I fill the cart, and all of a sudden, it feels like somebody has taken an axe to my knee. I called up Instacart and had to be released from the order. I had to get surgery and take a bunch of time off, and I ended up in a homeless respite shelter. After I got out of the shelter, I lived in a tent in the woods for three weeks. I kept working because there was nothing else I could do. I couldn't earn enough money to get a down payment on an apartment. I spent about a year and a half in the homeless shelter system.

The fallout from being injured — being out of work and becoming homeless — would not have happened if there had been benefits in place. If I had workers' comp and insurance when I was recovering from the injury I sustained working my heart out for these people, I would not have been homeless."

— Corwin, Shipt/Instacart shopper, Shoreline

"I'm not really protected by the laws that other workers have here in Washington state. I don't have healthcare, I don't have time off, I don't have sick leave — I'm not even protected if I get hurt on the job, which I have been once before. I'm not protected with unemployment if I get deactivated. The companies expect us to be reliable, but right now, we cannot rely on them. It is time for better standards to be set."

— Mia, Instacart shopper, Seattle

"I'm a W2 worker at a tech company. For me, this is a side gig, but I know people who do this full-time and this is their livelihood. I've heard horror stories. I've seen people who were experienced, who had been doing this for two years and were never late on their deliveries, and all it takes is about two errors. You get a warning email and then you get a dismissal email. Most of the time, it's not really their fault. Traffic jams are horrendous. When you don't deliver on time, you get dinged. If a package is stolen, you get dinged.

It would be nice to have workers' voices out there and some upward channels for communication."

— Roy, Amazon Flex courier, Seattle

"One of the ads I saw said you could do this for a living. Well, I quit my day job because I was thinking, '$25 an hour, heck yeah!'

But you put all you can into this gig, and then you see the decrease in pay over time. It's so minute you don't even notice it until you're getting behind on your bills, and then you end up losing your home. That's my story. I couldn't afford rent anymore. I was living in my van, waking up every morning, and having to go work 12 hours a day just to get by, and then pouring that money back into gas for my car. Sometimes I barely made $100 in that 12-hour day."

— Chris, former Doordash driver, Everett

Workers like Chris, Mia, Roy, Corwin, & Wafiullah speaking out about their work conditions is a huge step in making change. They're fighting to bring portable benefits & better wages to their jobs. But they can't do it alone.

Click here & sign up to help spread the word about our gig workers campaign.

When we all stand together, we can push back against these new issues workers are facing by building new models for workers' rights. Gig workers are on the front lines of our changing economy — so stand with them and let's fight together!

history

Nannies and house cleaners in Seattle are set to make history. These workers have been excluded from basic workers' rights laws for decades. But on Monday, Seattle City Council is expected to vote on a groundbreaking Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which takes these workers from invisible to powerful. You can be a part of history.

Read More

join the party

As workers, we all need schedules that are flexible and predictable enough for us to live our lives. That could mean the freedom to go to school or spend time with our families. It could mean the stability of getting enough hours to pay the rent. It could mean being able to plan ahead so we can make time for the things that matter to us outside of work — whether it's volunteering, making art, or just celebrating special occasions like a birthday or an anniversary.

And if you're going to plan some time to celebrate an anniversary, today isn't a bad day to do it, because it's a big oneA year ago today, Seattle's secure scheduling law went into effect — and tens of thousands of food, coffee, and retail workers started seeing some major changes in their schedules at work and their lives.

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Click here to celebrate with us!

So celebrate with us by reading what the workers who won secure scheduling have to say about what the last year has been like for them…

If you think more secure schedules are a cause for celebration, click here to join the party!

Let us know if you're a worker who has seen improvements in scheduling at work since last July — or if there are changes you want to see.

It's clear that when workers come together and fight for change, we can do big things. What can we do by this time next year?

Happy anniversary!

a big part of my time, but a small part of my life

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I work full-time as a visual merchandiser at an outdoor retailer. My job is to make sure the store looks good — putting the merchandise we’re selling in place, making changes to the floor set to keep everything interesting, dressing and undressing mannequins, tracking sales. I get very steady hours — about 40 a week. That stability is key. It means I can plan out my life — I can look at a calendar and say “yes, I can schedule something outside of work this day.” Work is a big part of my time, but a small part of my life. Secure scheduling makes it easier to do everything outside of work, like spend time with my family, which is massive, or go on day trips or long hikes. I know exactly when I’m working, and I know those hours won’t change on me.


Last year, tens of thousands of food and retail workers in Seattle won secure scheduling, giving them two weeks' notice of their schedules, the right to rest between shifts, the right to give input into their schedules, and more.

How does your employer stack up when it comes to scheduling? Click here to find out your employer's Scheduling Score.


I’m lucky in that my current employer has always been pretty consistent when it comes to scheduling. But before I worked here, I was a salesperson at American Eagle and used to deal with constantly being on call, but never scheduled for real shifts. Managers would play favorites, so a small group of people would get all the hours. I just never knew if I was going to have money for anything. You could never really guess how many hours you’d get, so you could go from thinking, “ok, I’ll probably make a solid $200 or so,” to ending up with $40 in your paycheck.

And it was a huge bind on my time — being on call meant that I could never be too far from where I worked, because if I got called in, I would have to show up. My time wasn’t really mine. That’s stressful. You don’t feel valued as a worker, and it creates resentment towards management.

Now, I feel valued at my job, and I can plan ahead long-term. I can plan on having money and time to do things I need or want to do — whether that’s meeting someone at the climbing gym or just mundane grown-up things like going to the doctor’s office or scheduling an eye appointment.

I think secure scheduling is good for business, too. The team’s a little bit happier. Managers don’t have to worry about the schedule all the time, because it’s set up a couple weeks in advance, so if someone can’t show up or needs to take time off, they can plan around that.

Workers are more productive when we’re working the right hours and know when we’re scheduled to work. It boosts morale. It’s just a lot less stress, especially for people who are living paycheck to paycheck and have a lot of bills — it’s important to know exactly how much money you’re going to make at the end of the day and know you can make ends meet. And it’s vital to have work-life balance, which you can only have if you know when you’re working ahead of time. It’s that simple.

Across Seattle, workers like Adriana are sharing stories of what secure scheduling has meant for them. They're talking about how two weeks' notice of their schedules, the right to input into their schedules, and other secure scheduling policies have brought their work and their life into balance.

But right now, most workers in Washington aren't covered by secure scheduling. That's why we want to give workers all over the state a chance to see how their employers are doing when it comes to scheduling. Click here to get your employer's Scheduling Score!

invisible to powerful

Thousands of nannies, house cleaners, and other domestic workers in Seattle don’t get the full protections of our workers’ rights laws. Few have access to basic benefits like healthcare and retirement. Many don't get paid rest breaks. Some are even excluded from the minimum wage. And there’s no good way for workers to come together to set industry-wide standards that improve wages and working conditions.

Until now.

Thursday morning, we'll be at Seattle City Hall to celebrate the introduction of a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which will lead the way to a new model of worker power. We'll break down some doors and take Seattle's domestic workers from invisible to powerful!

If you can make it to Seattle City on Thursday morning, we'd love for you to join us. If you can't make it, can you take a moment to send a message of support to the workers leading the way?

For months, Seattle domestic workers have been working with elected officials to develop a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights that will address the inequities faced by a workforce that’s mostly women and disproportionately people of color. 

Here are some key components of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights being introduced Thursday:

  • Covers all part-time and full-time domestic workers in the city — regardless of whether they are technically employed by an agency or a family, and regardless of whether they are classified as employees or contractors.

  • Ensures all domestic workers are covered by the minimum wage and receive rest breaks.

  • Establishes a Domestic Workers Standards Board which includes workers, employers, and community representatives and has the power to establish industry-wide standards on wages, benefits, training, and other issues.

The Domestic Workers Standards Board would be a breakthrough step for workers rights in Seattle and across the country — a new model of collective bargaining being led by women and people of color who have been too long excluded from other basic legal protections.

Let us know if you can make it Thursday and celebrate this big step forward — and send a message of support!