Ammiano bill would regulate nannies, babysitters

June 27, 2013

By Katy Grimes


SACRAMENTO — The “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,” AB 241, may have a certain civil rights ring to it, but it really should be called the Unionize Babysitters and Nannies Bill.

By Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, in the bill’s language it, “[W]ould specially regulate the wages, hours, and working conditions of domestic work employees.” It would “include childcare providers, caregivers of people with disabilities, sick, convalescing, or elderly persons, house cleaners, housekeepers, maids, and other household occupations.” In many cases it would mandate pay for “travel time spent by a personal attendant” and regulate “accommodations for a domestic work employee who is required to sleep in a private household.”

It would encourage unionization, turning your nanny and babysitter into union members.

At Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, Ammiano’s witnesses told of severe abuses by domestic care givers at the hands of employers. The stories were horrific.

One woman told of coming to America to work, but was enslaved and forced to work 18-hour days, seven days a week. The FBI eventually broke up the slavery ring and the perpetrators went to jail.

However, the bill wouldn’t do any more for such victims because slavery already has been outlawed in America since the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1865. It was the ban on slavery and the FBI that nabbed the slavemasters, not California law.

California already has the country’s strictest labor laws. And unionizing domestic workers would hurt workers more than help. They would forced to pay union dues out of their low wages, and no longer would have the ability to work flexible schedules and hours. Your home would be more like a factory than a setting of domestic bliss.

To avoid the bill, many employers — such as parents — might try to hire illegal aliens already working outside the law. Which would mean that many American citizens, or legal resident immigrants, could lose their jobs.

It always starts with a resolution

In 2010, the State Legislature passed a Resolution for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which spawned a study by UCLA on the issue. What was promised as just a resolution recognizing this group of the workforce morphed into AB 241.

“This resolution highlights the work done by domestic workers in the state and the labor violations faced by these workers,” the UCLA study said. “The resolution calls for the fair treatment of these workers, noting that domestic workers have a right to be treated with respect and dignity.”

The California Domestic Worker Coalition was formed in 2009 to replicate New York’s Domestic Worker Bill of Rights.

The coalition comprised various groups, including Mujeres Unidas Y Activas, POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), La Colectiva de Mujeres of La Raza Centro Legal, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Grayton Day Labor Program, the Pilipino Worker Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA).

In 2009, the coalition brought together 100 domestic workers to create their list of demands for workplace protections available to other workers, such as overtime pay, Cal/OSHA safety standards, and workers’ compensation.

This isn’t just a grassroots effort to help domestic workers. It’s being pushed by big labor groups such as Urban Habitat, the International Labour Organization, the National Domestic Worker Alliance.

Brown vetoes

In 2011, Ammiano co-authored a similar bill, AB 889, also called the “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.” It passed both houses of the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill would have allowed a state agency to develop regulations on overtime and meal breaks for nannies, maids and other domestic workers.

“Assemblyman Tom Ammiano … wrote AB 889 and used profanity to register his disagreement with the governor’s veto message, which was one of the longest issued by Brown this year,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Brown wrote in his veto message, “What will be the economic and human impact on the disabled or elderly person and their family of requiring overtime, rest and meal periods for attendants who provide 24-hour care?…. Will it increase costs to the point of forcing people out of their homes and into licensed institutions?”

Given Brown’s questions two years ago, it’s not surprising that the new bill, SB 241, is opposed by California Association for Health Services at Home, Home Care Association of America-Northern California Chapter and the United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration.

If the bill becomes law, many families that now keep a beloved but disabled relative at home, cared for by domestic help, would be forced to put the person in an institution perhaps many miles away. The disabled person would be deprived of the family love that keeps many of them alive.

And earlier in 2011, another bill, AB 101, attempted to unionize licensed child-care — both providers who run small, in-home day care centers; and relatives who take care of family members and receive a state subsidy. Bill author Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, insisted its purpose was to provide better working conditions for child-care providers. Brown also vetoed it.


As a former human relations director in the private sector, I know well that overtime doesn’t work in some industries. Look at the list of exemptions. Most of the jobs are largely production related and require untypical periods of work in order to meet production. They can’t be molded into a standard eight-hour, state-office-worker workday. These people work when the work is there, and they work long hours when they need to. When the work is not available, they do not get paid.

Long-time seasonable or production employees understand that they make a great deal of money during some seasons, and can work long hours. Those employees also know that, if Ammiano’s bill passes, they stand to make less money overall because of the strict and unrealistic regulations.

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