Invisible to Powerful: Seattle City Council votes to pass historic domestic workers bill of rights

Nannies & housecleaners make history, continuing series of workers rights breakthroughs

Seattle City Council votes unanimously to pass groundbreaking Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

History, made: Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to pass a groundbreaking municipal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which ensures nannies & house cleaners get the basic rights and benefits every worker needs — including power on the job. Domestic workers have ended their exclusion from basic labor standards, and won important new rights and protections. Most importantly, the law establishes a 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. The full ordinance is available online here. Key details are highlighted in this one-pager and listed at the bottom of this email. 

Photos and video of various campaign activities are available here on dropbox and released for use. 

Today’s vote is the latest in a series of workers rights breakthroughs led by Working Washington members. Airport workers with Working Washington organized to pass the SeaTac Proposition 1 living wage initiative in 2013. Fast food workers with Working Washington led the way to Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law in 2014. Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards was created in 2015, including a unique co-enforcement partnership with community-based organizations including the Fair Work Center. Coffee, food, and retail workers with Working Washington won Seattle’s secure scheduling law in 2016. Working Washington members across the state helped win I-1433 to raise the statewide minimum wage & provide paid sick days in 2016, and a landmark statewide paid family leave law in 2017. And now nannies and housecleaners with Working Washington’s Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance have won today’s landmark Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.


“Nannies & house cleaners in Seattle are making history today. After more than a year of organizing with Working Washington, we’re poised to win a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which includes a groundbreaking Domestic Worker Standards Board — a first-in-the-nation new model of worker power being led by women and people of color who have been too long denied their basic rights on the job.” — Rachel Lauter, Executive Director, Working Washington and Fair Work Center.

"I'm excited about our community coming together to make greater changes that will benefit us all and will make our jobs feel more valuable and respected. Some families really want to do what’s right, but don’t really know what the standard is, or what’s normal. I sometimes work long hours, and it would be so important to know that comes with overtime, just like in other jobs.” — Anthony Teran, nanny

“I have been a nanny for over 7 years, while attending school full time. I’ve worked for several different families over that time, but I’ve never had an employer that provides overtime, sick days, or vacation. Passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights means we can make these kinds of basic rights & benefits into basic standards for all domestic workers, not privileges for a lucky few.” — Vero Zanko, nanny

“I’ve worked as a live-in nanny in Green Lake for years. With my current family, I have traveled all over the world and they have always treated me as a part of the family. But it’s also a job, and we need to set boundaries and separate feelings from work. We need to learn to stand up for ourselves. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will help make this happen by including live-in workers and establishing a Standards Board where we can come together.” — Maria Flores, nanny

“It’s so important that nannies are able to set standards together with employers. Last fall I worked for a family that didn’t treat it like a two way street. They asked me to care for their elderly father, as if I was a certified home care worker. They expected me to be a full time cleaner during their vacation getaways. And they didn’t respect my time either — when I worked over 50 hours, they only submitted 40 hours worked, claiming I was salaried to avoid paying overtime. There are a lot of good employers out there, but this kind of thing shouldn’t happen to anyone in our field. It’s not allowed in other workforces, and it shouldn’t be allowed in ours.” — Michelle Manney, nanny

"I have previously employed nannies, I currently employ house cleaners, and in the near future I will most likely be employing caregivers for my mother. As an employer, I am committed to treating the workers I hire with the utmost dignity and respect. That said, I myself need help to make sure that I'm complying with workplace standards and not just my own subjective definition of what's fair.  That's why I strongly support the Domestic Workers' Ordinance, which will provide the clear guidance that employers like myself need." — Jen Soriano, employer of domestic workers

“The timing of the Domestic Workers’ Ordinance is critically important because it provides an opportunity for Seattle to offer a different vision and attitude towards labor rights, immigration, women, children, and people of color than what we see coming out of Washington. This movement is about creating a better environment for the most left behind members of our population, those who provide the care and those who receive the care. It is about how our priorities shift when women and workers have a voice and a hand in shaping policy. The Seattle Nanny Network will continue to lead by example. We are excited by the opportunity presented by the Domestic Work Standards Board to propose further worker protections and identify simple and realistic avenues for employers to offer caregivers’ the benefits they deserve.” — Emily Dills, Seattle Nanny Network (an employment agency)

What the ordinance does:

Ends the exclusion of these workers from basic labor standards:

  • Covers 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.
  • Applies Seattle’s minimum wage to domestic workers, regardless of whether they are classified as employees or contractors. 
  • Ensures all domestic workers receive meal and rest breaks, with provisions for those circumstances when breaks may not be feasible.

Provides important new rights and protections:

  • Ensures live-in workers get at least one day off out of every seven days worked.
  • Forbids employers from keeping a worker’s original documents.
  • Strengthens anti-retaliation protections for domestic workers who exert their rights.

Establishes a new model of worker power:

  • Establishes a Domestic Workers Standards Board which includes workers, employers, and community representatives and has the power to effectively set industry-wide standards.
  • Mandates that the standards board will address wage standards, portable benefits, hiring agreements, training, paid time off, outreach & enforcement, and other issues as they arise.
  • Gives the board real power by requiring City Council to act on the board’s recommendations within 120 days. 

The Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance (SDWA) unites nannies, house cleaners, and other domestic workers across Seattle. Workers have established SDWA a project of Working Washington, with support from Casa Latina, SEIU 775, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.


Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington:

Working Washington is the voice for workers in our state. Working Washington fast food strikers sparked the fight that won Seattle’s first-in-the-nation $15 minimum wage. Working Washington baristas and fast food workers led the successful campaign for secure scheduling in Seattle, and our members across the state helped drive forward Initiative 1433 to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick days. We successfully drove Amazon to sever ties with the right-wing lobby group ALEC and improve conditions in their sweatshop warehouses, and got Starbucks to address inequities in their corporate parental leave policy. And we made history once again with the landmark statewide paid family leave law passed last year. For more information, including our press kit, visit