Do You Think Nannies Should Unionize?

Tough road to domestic workers’ union, report says

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights prompted the report, which shows that including domestic workers under the State Employment Relations Act “is a critical first step in the organizing process.”

By Daniel Massey

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights that Gov. David Paterson signed earlier this year assured nannies and housekeepers of three paid days off per year after 12 months on the job and included them under basic discrimination laws. It didn’t, however, give them the right to join a union.

But the law did compel the state Department of Labor to study the feasibility of domestic workers bargaining collectively. And in a new report, the DOL lays out potential paths for domestic workers to unionize, though it acknowledges the process won’t be straightforward because of the industry’s special circumstances.

The report—required under the Bill of Rights—shows that including domestic workers under the State Employment Relations Act “is a critical first step in the organizing process.”

The state’s 200,000 domestic workers and their advocates had hoped the Bill of Rights would bring domestic workers under state laws governing collective bargaining, but it did not go that far. And benefits usually obtained at the negotiating table—like paid sick days, paid holidays, notice of termination, and severance pay—were not included in the final version of the bill.

“This is an industry where people lack a lot of rights or they are not aware of their rights,” said Colleen Gardner, the state’s labor commissioner. “Domestic workers are isolated from one another and it’s difficult for them to advocate on their own. We want to encourage the process, to begin to help shape the way they go as far as improving standards in the industry,”

Even if state labor law were changed to include domestic workers as employees, it’s still not clear how they would organize, the report notes. Because domestic work is highly decentralized, with employees working at different worksites, for different employers, it’s not apparent how bargaining units would be determined or with whom those units would bargain.

The report also mentioned other potential ways for domestic workers to improve conditions, including hiring halls, legislation requiring written contracts of employment for domestic workers, and ways to expand health insurance.

“The DOL’s findings echo what we know can now be possible in the domestic work industry,” said Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United, an advocacy group that fought for the Bill of Rights. “Granting domestic workers the right to collectively bargain is a critical next step in our efforts to ensure stability and workplace standards and to end abuse and exploitation in this industry.”

See entire article by clicking here.

Should nannies have a union?


  1. yes, yes, a million times yes, nannies should have a union.

  2. Require us to be licensed first, as they do legitimate child care workers.!!! We need to bring something to the table too and I think our raising the bar regarding who can claim to be a nanny in the first place will help us get more laws etc that are in our best interest. We have a very important job in helping to raise future generations of our country, and it is in our nation's best interest to get this right. We should be trained in all aspects of child development and know how to do things that teachers in childcare centers know. This is in the best interest of each child too.My gosh, many of us still make more then them. We make more than some working in retail or restaurants. I'm not saying we don't work long hard hours (although so do those people too) but if you want to be entitled to something, then you earn it through education.

  3. Sadly unionizing won't change the fact that illegals won't be a part of the union. How can illegals demand better job rights when they aren't legal.For american citizens yes, of course, let's unionize. Join Domestic Workers United, that's our union for now.

  4. One of the risks always faced by unions or other wage floor setters is that of pricing workers out of their market. Certainly this has happened before. Jobs have gone elsewhere because people elsewhere were more concerned with minimal means of livelihood than of having a middle-class standard of living.Parents who hire workers to tend their children are generally most interested in the quality of that care. But at some point, for many, money does enter into the picture. If the parents can’t afford the in-home cost at $15/hour, one of several things will happen: the parents will split-shift, with one working in the daytime and one at night; one parent will stay home (probably the mother); parents will band together and jointly hire expensive in-home child providers; or parents will turn their children over to church, community or daycare, all depends on what they can afford.The net result of this will be that except for the very few nannies who either have degrees that let them work for high end childcare providers, or manage to put together several children for a jury-rigged in-someone’s home provision, the large numbers of women who earn a living providing in-home childcare services will be done out of their jobs.I’m not suggesting that better working conditions should not be a goal for everyone, but the means of feeding yourself and your family is more important than paid vacations and holidays. Poorer parents will simply higher illegals who ask for lower wages.

  5. Holy Crap anonymous above. I sure hope you aren't a nanny or nanny employer. Why not build a union nannies! Go for it!

  6. I love the concept of unions. I still think nannies will have to negotiate for themselves, even if they have an union. Even the best nannies that I know negotiate their own contracts. Even the best nannies can only make so much. I just don't see how an union will help individuals working by themselves in someone's home.Just too hard to regulate individuals working in homes.

  7. I agree with Fiona in that immigration status plays a role in a worker's treatment. Even though illegal immigrants are entitled by law to the same basic worker's rights as citizens, many fear their employers will turn them in to the immigration authorities if they don't do whatever is asked of them and having an union won't change that. And there's a problem with skin color. Sorry, it's true. I see darker skinned American citizens originally from other countries treated worse than "white" nannies or European nannies. But how can we prosecute a racist parent who doesn't actually say anything publicly admitting they are racist but still are? Can unions help these issues?

  8. Outside of New York I don't see nannies banning together. Why hasn't anyone mentioned if we can't even get a national liscencing or certification proceses for nannies, what's the real chances of getting a union?

  9. Thanks for the comments, because I'm so confused by the topic I really don't know what to think or say. I just know it's really hard to get isolated nannies who work 50-60 hour weeks to do this sort of thing. It's hard to even socialize because we are so tired after work. Interesting reading though.

  10. HI! I have been a nanny for years!I found a great family who respects me and treats me great! Yet, most of my friends dont get overtime pay ,dont get respected!They cut there hours with out notice!They hold there income for weeks even months!They dont let them take time off for even the birt of there first grandson!We need a Union!!

  11. I've followed this issue with interest for several years now and have very mixed (and complicated) feelings about it. Of course child care providers, including nannies, should be treated fairly by their employers – and employers should respect both their employees and aplicable labor laws. But no amount of legislation, organizing or collective bargaining is going to make that happen – or even help that happen.My biggest concern about the law and nannies organizing as a labor group has to do with the the individual rights that parents have to offer employment (or not) to whomever they choose. I feel pretty stringly that when it comes to family and home, a parent has the right to choose who they want to be around the children and the terms under which they hire someone. The 'protection' that a household employee has, as I see it, is the ability to quit if they do not like the conditions or terms of the position.Collective bargaining requires two major things to work effectively: An employer who hires and manages a workforce made up of many people doing similar tasks with similar skills – and a workforce made up of individuals with similar skills and training. The Household Employment has neither.I tend to think that it would be far better if the state of NY required household employers to provide all household employees (and candidates) with a brochure published by the state of New York that details a household employees existing rights under the department of labor regulations – and provides those employees/candidates a list of resources avaiable for more information and advocacy.The other problem I have with NYC's approach is that the unintended consequences [of more legislation and restrictions and requirements placed upon a household employer] will be that parents will choose to ignore the laws and thus create a whole new class of 'criminal'. That would be to no one's benefit.- Michael

  12. I've only heard pros of having a union so I appreciate Michael's take on the topic. Thanks Mike, you have given us much to think about.

  13. This is a huge step for New York State to be the 1st state to pass a law like this. We can hope that others follow because as we all know, domestic employment is one of the most un-regulated industries out there. I first found out about the proposed law in June from my payroll company- GTM Payroll Services ('ve been great in walking my employer through what needs to be done and some changes that had to happen to my contract. Kudos to New York!!

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