Seattle council approves 'bill of rights' for domestic workers

A group of nannies and house cleaners are the newest group to challenge city hall for new rights. Organizers with Working Washington said thousands of workers don’t have the same basic protections most workers have in Seattle. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The Seattle City Council unanimously approved on Monday a 'bill of rights' for domestic workers who perform jobs such as nanny, house cleaner and landscaping.

The groundbreaking law would help ensure domestic workers receive proper rest and meal breaks, minimum wage, and are able to retain their personal, original documents. The changes apply to domestic workers regardless of classification.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda, creates a special panel of workers and employers who would work together to set industry standards on wages, retirement benefits, training, workers' compensation, sick leave and other issues.

Seattle is the first city in the United States to have a domestic workers' bill of rights. Eight states have similar laws including Oregon, New York and Illinois.

“We can be the start of a really big change for the rest of the country,” said Ty Messiah who has been a nanny for three years.

She’s been outspoken in her support of the legislation saying not all nannies get benefits and a decent pay like she does with her currently employer.

“Sometimes domestic workers have kids who get sick too, but they don't have the time or the money to take care of their own children. But they are inside your house taking care of yours," said Messiah.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she will sign the legislation.

“Domestic workers – who are usually women and who are disproportionately immigrants and people of color – have been marginalized and left out of worker protections for decades. Tens of thousands of men and women who work tirelessly in Seattle deserve these basic rights and standards," she said in a prepared statement following the vote. "Building economic opportunity means protecting all workers through fair wages and fair rights."

According to the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance, there are approximately 33,000 domestic workers in Seattle, including nannies, house cleaners and home-care workers.

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