The California Legislature today gave final approval to the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) to finally extend some labor rights to this largely female and immigrant workforce. Advocates are hopeful that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it this time.
As we reported in a Guardian cover story in March, “Do we care?,”  domestic and farm workers are the only two categories of employees exempted from federal labor law, and the caregiving professions are consistently undervalued in our economic and political systems. Last year, Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, expressing the concern that it might hurt the economy and cost jobs.
But advocates for the measure came back even stronger this year  than last, and they recently accepted a set of amendments in the Senate that weaken the bill but may make it more palatable to Gov. Brown, including eliminating the requirement for rest and meal breaks and giving the measure a three-year sunset and commission to review its impacts.
“We’ve had discussions with the administration and we think we’re on the right track to get it signed,” Ammiano’s Press Secretary Carlos Alcala told the Guardian.
He emphasized that the bill still retains the requirement that domestic workers, who routinely work more than 40 hours per week, are entitled to overtime pay, something that Ammiano also emphasized in a prepared statement.
“This is a historic moment,” Ammiano said. “This now goes to the governor for his signature. That will give these workers, mostly women, the right to be paid fairly for overtime worked.”
Katie Joaquin, campaign coordinator the California Domestic Workers Coalition, said she's excited to see the bill pass and hopeful that Brown will sign it this time.
"If he signs this bill, California would be the first state to give daily overtime rights to all domestic workers," she said, referring to its requirement that domestic workers get overtime pay after working nine hours in a day, the same standard as now applies to live-in caregivers.
While she said it was hard to accept some of the amendments, such as removing the requirement that domestic workers get uninterrupted time for a full night's sleep, she said they were acceptable conditions for this initial reform measure. And she said the sunset provision could actual work in their favor: "We plan to take that as an opportunity to fight for even more."
The bill, AB241, was approved by the Assembly today on a 48-25 vote to concur with the amendment made in the Senate. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign it.