Do You Know a Nanny Working in Nearly Slave Conditions?

A Union for Nannies: Domestic Workers United

I love this article The Nannies’ Norma Rae by Barbara Ehrenreich from The New York Times Style Magazine. If you know a nanny or housekeeper (as I’m sure you do) who works for a family who doesn’t respect labor laws or the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights I urge you (and all domestic workers) to learn more about Domestic Workers United. Please click here to read the entire article.

It’s the most intimate class divide in human civilization, or at least in such relatively civilized places as Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn. On the one side, there is the professional couple bringing in six figures a year; on the other, the nanny or maid without whom the couple wouldn’t be able to practice their professions. Conditions of employment are as variable as the individual employers are — from respectful and considerate all the way to criminally abusive. On average, a domestic worker is likely to get less than $15 an hour, no benefits and none of the credit or glory. To my knowledge anyway, there has never been a successful career woman — or man, for that matter — who’s responded to being praised for “doing it all” by saying, “Actually, Manuela (or Angelica or Harriet) does most of it.”

You don’t have to be down on your knees scraping congealed crème fraîche off marble tiles to see that there’s something not quite right about this picture. Ai-jen Poo was a recent Columbia University graduate in 1998 when she got incensed about the status of New York’s domestic workers and started organizing them into something resembling a union. It’s not that easy to organize domestic workers, even the ones who are fluent in English, because their workplaces are scattered among thousands of individual apartments and town houses and no one keeps a list of their names.

But word spread among networks of immigrant domestics, through churches and around the playgrounds frequented by nannies until, by 2010, the organization Poo helped put together, Domestic Workers United, was formidable enough to pressure the New York State legislature into passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, recognizing them as legitimate workers on a par with any other wage earners, and entitled to such amenities as overtime pay, a minimum of three paid days off a year and legal protection from harassment and discrimination: not everything they need, by a long shot, but a big step up from invisibility.

Click here to read the entire article.


  1. Well they are paid so they aren't slaves. LOL

  2. I don't have a contract. Interestiing no one ever told me about labor laws not even my agency.

  3. Michele: LOL all of us at times !!! Debbie: Yes, yes, yes a million time yes! Why is it that the government protects au pairs in a cultural exchange program better than nannies. I mean, Non Tax paying nannies. If you pay taxes you are protected by labor laws and au pairs have strict guidelines too. Great article. Kristi: I do not have a work agreement/contract. Sherri: I also dont have a work agreement…yet! I feel more like a 'maid' than a nanny! Can you keep a secret? LOL Christine: you should really talk to ur employers ladies they can take ur taxs out for u and they should be paying to your Ss and to unemployment that way u the labor laws and if the don't need you anymore u can clam unemployment Marie: I never had a contract with any of the families I worked for. Taxes were always a taboo subject. Employers have control over you whether you pay taxes or not. They begin to hold grudges if they have to contribute to ss and unemployment. Christine: wow i just have a great family then cuz they do all that and i have my oen phone and car and the take out taxs and pay in to my Ss and unemployment as well as money to spend each week and if i spend more they give me that money back and no houes work just kids dishes of meals Lisa: Government worker employers since coming to DC, taxes taken out. I personally feel any and all government workers and politicians should be audited on this if they want a tax payer paid paycheck too. Same for any CEOs etc who get bailout money and stimulus, subidies, etc. Debbie: Nannies have to negotiate their own contracts. Taxes aren't taboo if you bring it up in the interview when you negotiate. You won't get what you don't ask for. Marie: For every family I've worked for taxes has been an issue. I always asked about them in my interviews and they always wanted to pay me as an independent contractor so they wouldn't have to pay their half of the ss. I'm so glad I got out of this profession and found something better because at the end of the day I paid to work as a nanny. The government wants its money whether your boss pays it or not. Kathie: If you work with an agency they negotiate your taxes etc. If you are going to negotiate your work environment (even if you don't want to contract) you need to stand up for yourself. It is not legal for families to not pay your taxes…you are not an independent contractor if you work under employers guidelines in their home; you are an employee. I don't work with a contract however I do have taxes paid and comp time etc recognized. We can only be taken advantage of if we let ourselves be taken advantage of.Stephanie:No agency ever negotiated my contract for me & I've been working as a nanny since 1993. I did it all myself. They do provide me with the range the family is willing to pay and job description. I did ALL NEGOTIATIONS by myself. I don't even …know if the agencies have ever informed my employers' about taxes (although I hope they did). Current agency provides a sample contract which parents and/or I can change. That's why I love spreading knowledge. Domestic Workers United helps inform us of labor laws and domestic workers rights.

  4. I can relate to this I am a nanny with over 20 years of experience and this is the first family that is working me 24/7 with not much time off for my self. And I was born in the US.

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