Domestic Worker Organizing: Building a Contemporary Movement for Dignity and Power

Source: Hina Shah & Marci Seville, Albany Law Review, Volume 75 Issue 1, 2011/2012

In the past decade, domestic workers have created a robust worker movement and sustained organizing in states like New York and California, as well as nationally and internationally….

The success of domestic worker organizing in the twenty-first century may seem like an anomaly against the backdrop of increased hostility towards unionized labor and an overall decline in wages and benefits for workers. The contemporary domestic worker movement, beginning in the 1990s, builds upon centuries of organizing and agitation by domestic workers and others for a cultural shift that values domestic labor as real work. The current movement fundamentally alters past organizing models, linking the struggle to a broader movement for social justice. Unlike past organizing efforts, domestic workers are at the helm of the contemporary movement. They have made significant strides, through their leadership and visibility, moving the cultural paradigm and building a broad-based alliance with labor, social justice activists, faith-based organizations, women’s groups, and students. Using a historical lens, this article analyzes the contemporary domestic worker movement’s success and momentum in transforming cultural attitudes toward favoring the legal protection of domestic workers….

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