Supporters of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights are gathering outside the State Capitol Building this afternoon (Tues/13), culminating caravans that began with rallies in a half-dozen cities (including San Francisco this morning), hoping to extend basic labor protections to the people who care for our children and grandparents and clean our homes.
Although activists want to reach members of the California Senate, where Assembly Bill 241 awaits approval after clearing the Assembly (it now awaits action by the Senate Appropriations Committee), their main target is Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar bill last year.
As we wrote in an April cover story on the issue, “Do We Care?,”  Brown cited concerns that extending overtime, minimum wage, and other basic labor standards to domestic workers -- who, along with farm workers, are the only workers exempt from federal labor laws -- could cause employers to lay off or reduce the hours of domestic workers.
Activists said they were insulted by that paternalistic approach. Nonetheless, the bill was modified to address some of those concerns, said Carlos Alcala, spokesperson for Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who sponsored the bill last year and again this year. For example, he said it eliminated the need for state agencies to write new regulations to enforcement the measure.
“It now puts the rules into the code. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. If we write the rules, then the rules say what we want,” Alcala told us. Still, he said they’ve gotten no indications from the Governor’s Office that Brown would sign this version: “It’s really hard to read where he is, but the good thing is we’ve already been through this.”
Activists with the California Domestic Workers Coalition -- which brings together domestic workers, their employers, labor unions, and progressive groups -- say they’ve been lobbying the Governor’s Office but they don’t know where he stands.
“Gov. Brown has not given any indication he’s going to sign the bill,” said Katie Joaquin, who is coordinating the campaign. “This caravan has involved numerous leaders from various communities urging Gov. Brown to work with us.”