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Mayor Jim Kenney (center) signs the Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights as domestic workers, organizers, leaders, and elected officials look on. Photo: Emily Neil / AL DÍA News
Mayor Jim Kenney (center) signs the Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights as domestic workers, organizers, leaders, and elected officials look on. Photo: Emily Neil / AL DÍA News

Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights signed into law

On Tuesday, Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill, which is considered to be one of the strongest sets of labor protections for domestic workers in the country.

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Domestic workers, organizers, elected officials, and community leaders gathered at City Hall on Nov. 26 to witness the official signing of the Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, set to take effect in May 2020.

Passed unanimously by City Council on Oct. 31, the legislation establishes basic labor protections for the more than 16,000 nannies, housekeepers, and caretakers in Philadelphia. The bill includes: anti-discrimination laws; mandatory written agreements; mandatory meal and rest breaks; the creation of a nine-person board to monitor standards and implementation; and the establishment of a portable paid time off system.

Philadelphia has joined nine states and the city of Seattle in passing protections for domestic workers.

 

 

“We’re here to celebrate one of the most comprehensive and progressive domestic worker bills of rights in the country. Getting this done has been an amazing victory for the women and men who told their stories,” said Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez at the signing ceremony.

The councilwoman, who was the bill’s primary legislative sponsor, noted the importance of not just the bill itself, but the way in which it was crafted: with the input and contribution from domestic workers themselves.

Betania Shephard, a domestic worker and leader in the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance (PDWA), was part of the team that wrote the legislation, which in addition to PDWA included support from Community Legal Services, the Mayor’s Office of Labor, Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez and other councilmembers.

“I’ve had many bad experiences. I’ve been paid very little, and some clients have been very vulgar,” Shephard said at the ceremony of some of the experiences of mistreatment in the industry which motivated her to fight for a bill of rights.

“Now we have backing and support for when there are abuses,” Shephard said.

María del Carmen Díaz, a PDWA organizer and leader who has been fighting for the passage of the bill for over a year, told AL DÍA that she believed the law and movement has already started to make a difference for her and others. 

“[The abuse] is going to stop it because we’ll now have somewhere to go to complain, someone who represents us,” said del Carmen Díaz. 

But del Carmen Díaz says that though there is cause for celebration, much work remains.

“Now our goal is to fight for a national bill,” said del Carmen Diaz, referencing the Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights Act introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) in July.

She added that the PDWA will also focus on education and outreach to domestic workers in Philadelphia, to ensure that they are informed about their newly-won rights and protections.

For domestic workers interested in learning more about the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance, they can be reached by email at [email protected], or by phone at (215) 398-5978.

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