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Table showing a median wage of $11 an hour for nannies and $10 an hour for housecleaners and caregivers, with non-citizens, especially undocumented ones, earning less than citizens.
If you exclude an entire occupation from minimum wage and overtime laws and deny workers the right to form unions, it should be no surprise when workers in that occupation end up horrifically exploited. That's the situation for domestic workers like nannies, housecleaners and caregivers. A new national survey offers some of the details.

The study, done by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and other groups, surveyed 2,086 domestic workers in 14 cities. The median wage for nannies was $11 an hour, with housecleaners and caregivers earning a median of $10 an hour. Immigrants, especially undocumented ones, earned less. Lurking beneath the median, 23 percent of the workers surveyed were paid less than the minimum wage in their states. For live-in workers, it's worse: 67 percent are paid less than minimum wage. Benefits? Forget it. Less than nine percent have employers who pay into Social Security and just four percent have employer-provided health insurance. And this is for working long, often physically taxing hours without breaks; many live-in workers can't even count on an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Domestic workers were excluded from the protection of major labor laws precisely because they were vulnerable—at the time the laws were written, Southern legislators who wanted to maintain a pool of low-paid black workers were the driving force. Not too much has changed: According to the Census Bureau, there were 726,437 domestic workers in 2010, 95 percent of whom were women, a majority of whom were racial and ethnic minorities, and 46 percent of whom were foreign-born. They continue to be exploited both by policy and by their individual employers.

Employers like this, for instance, can rot in hell:

Having honed her child development skills as a teacher in the Philippines, Anna was hired as a live-in nanny for a family of four in Midtown Manhattan. Anna’s workday is long, and she works every day of the week. She begins at 6 a.m. when the children wake up, and ends around 10 p.m. when she finishes cleaning the kitchen, after having put the children comfortably to bed. Her work consists of multiple tasks: cleaning, laundry, preparing family meals, and tending to all the children’s needs, including teaching them to read. At night, she sleeps between her charges on a small mattress placed on the floor between their beds. She has not been given a single day off in 15 months. Like many domestic workers, Anna’s pay is low. She was originally promised $1,500 a month but receives only $620. On average, then, she is paid just $1.27 per hour.
President Barack Obama has proposed a rule that would extend overtime and minimum wage protections to in-home care workers. If implemented, that would be a massive step forward for domestic workers, but they need more. All workers should receive these fundamental protections, as well as the right to breaks for meals, rest and a full night's sleep. Workers should be allowed to organize into unions if they choose, and should be protected from discrimination and harassment. In the absence of such laws, employers should do better. There's no excuse for paying a worker below minimum wage just because she works in your home, no excuse for demanding inhumane hours or imposing work burdens that lead to chronic pain or force housecleaners to breathe in toxic substances. But because there are a lot of people out there who are all too willing to treat other people this way, the law must be improved.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Invisible People, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  it's noteworthy that apparently the Lily (0+ / 0-)

    Ledbetter act hasn't applied to these workers. Aren't they largely women?

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:57:05 AM PST

  •  Aren't a fair number of nannies etc. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winsock, nextstep

    self employed?  I don't know if a "typical" union would work in that kind of situation, would it?

  •  What's really just sickening to me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    redlum jak, Throw The Bums Out

    about this is the attitude of many Republicans.
    I was at the home of some 20-somethings and their parents for Thanksgiving. My best friend and I are Dems, and the rest of the folks were GOP. I tried to keep my mouth shut when the politics talk started after dinner, but I had to say something to correct their erroneous Fox talking points.
    At one point in a discussion about wages, the young man, who (with his ex-Marine brother) works for his father, stated that some people were only worth $4-5 hour. Call me stunned at the callousness of this statement. I went calmly through all the living wage arguments, the do-the-math speech about how is someone supposed to pay for shelter, food, transportation, & health care on that kind of salary. Their answer? That person could have made another choice, to get an education they could have worked 2-3 jobs, gone into the military (they fail to see the irony in advocating working for the GOVERNMENT as a way to get free/reduced cost education benefits) applied for Pell Grants, gotten scholarships, etc.  The brother stated that of the hundreds of people he knows, he's never met ANYONE that couldn't afford to go to college. F'ing clueless.
    They don't feel it is their responsibility AT ALL, to care for the rest of society. Meanwhile, without their father's very lucrative business, they probably wouldn't be working and making handsome wages that enable them to buy big houses and have all the toys. Oh, and their father's business? He gets ALL his work from local governments. And finally, the kicker - they are all such good Christians.
    It's been bothering me since last week.

    America is a COUNTRY, not a CORPORATION. She doesn't need a CEO. Vote Obama.

    by manneckdesign on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 12:45:19 PM PST

    •  There are people in the world who are more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      driven than the people you met. Those other people would look down on the dinner hosts as slackers. A functional society can make use of the wide range of ambitions and talents held by its members.

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:11:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  SEIU is sponsoring a conference in Chicago... (0+ / 0-)

    ...about this very issue on Saturday. I'm planning to be there. This is a national disgrace.

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 02:33:23 PM PST

  •  We only pay the people who take care of our kids (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, historys mysteries, a2nite

    a dollar more than the people who clean our houses?

    Also, I can kill you with my brain.

    by Puffin on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:03:41 PM PST

    •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate, Egalitare

      I have a Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education, 40+ years of experience and make $12.18 and hour as an Early Head Start teacher.

      Sunlight is the best disinfectant

      by historys mysteries on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:29:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Random question--but are you acquainted (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        historys mysteries

        with the Merrill-Palmer School? I'd be interested if it rings any bells for you.
        But yes, it is appalling that teaching the youngest, arguably the most crucial developmental stage in life, is so profoundly undervalued in this society. Telling.

        I'm seeking to organize DKos members in SE Michigan--roughly, from the Ohio line at Lake Erie NE to Port Huron, W to Flint and back S from there. If you'd like to join our new group, Motor City Kossacks (working title), please Kosmail me.

        by peregrine kate on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:52:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not familiar with Merrill-Palmer (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peregrine kate

          is it known by another name, sounds familiar.  I am somewhat knowledgeable about Montessori, Reggio-Emilio and Waldorf, however.

          Sunlight is the best disinfectant

          by historys mysteries on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:15:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The M-P Institute (nee School) closed in 1980 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            historys mysteries

            so it was a long shot that you would know it. But since you're in early childhood ed I thought there might be a chance. Thanks for answering.

            I'm seeking to organize DKos members in SE Michigan--roughly, from the Ohio line at Lake Erie NE to Port Huron, W to Flint and back S from there. If you'd like to join our new group, Motor City Kossacks (working title), please Kosmail me.

            by peregrine kate on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:47:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Doesn't look right. (0+ / 0-)

      Housecleaners in my town make 20.00 plus an hour as well as good nannies and good summer nannies. Who gets housecleaners and nannies for $10.00 an hour? I live in MN.

  •  Wealthy souls in wheel chairs. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Fuck Big Brother...from now on, WE'RE watching.

    by franklyn on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:04:31 PM PST

  •  A couple that would pay their (6+ / 0-)

    governess $1.27 an hour, clearly doesn't value their children very highly, either.

    They are passing their genes along? Yech.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:08:46 PM PST

    •  That struck me, as well. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Childcare is the most important duty, but cooking, cleaning and laundry are mentioned as well. Anna even sleeps on a mattress on the floor in the children's bedroom.

      Do these parents do anything to keep up this household? I know some couples with pretty brutal work schedules (i.e., doctor married to lawyer), but they don't outsource every normal obligation of home and family. Not even close.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Anna left out a few of her more onerous duties. She probably has to wipe their butts for them, too.

      Just because you're not a drummer doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time. -- T. Monk

      by susanala on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:07:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hate to say it (and I personally (0+ / 0-)

        find this very disillusioning) some of the worst, most abusive domestic employers, come from the same foreign culture as the employee they're abusing. They have more of a leg-up in American culture than their employee has--maybe they've been here longer, speak English better, and have attained some other measure of success--and they feel this gives them license to treat some new arrival like garbage. We see it time and again. I wondered if the couple that was paying their Philipino governess $1.27 an hour, was also Philipino. Not fresh-off-the-boat, mind you, but definitely with ties to the old country.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 07:35:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hate to say it (and I find this very (0+ / 0-)

        disillusioning) the people who abuse their domestic employees, often come from the employee's own culture. They've been here longer than their employee, speak English better, and/or have attained some measure of success in American culture and feel this gives them the license to treat somebody else like garbage. I wondered for this reason if the couple that was paying their Philipino governess $1.27 an hour was also Philipino. Not fresh-off-the-boat, maybe, but definitely with ties to the old country.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 07:44:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry for the comment that's (0+ / 0-)

          largely a repeat of the one I left above it. For a time this morning, my comments were simply disappearing.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:07:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Low-wage earners have to be encouraged to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, historys mysteries

    demand more rights. They have no idea the power they'd have if they all suddenly refused to work. The country would come to a standstill. Wake up and organize!

    "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

    by Wildthumb on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:19:33 PM PST

    •  it's more complicated than that. (0+ / 0-)

      If low wage workers stopped working, then there would be another wave of illegal workers, glad for the opportunity under the table to take their jobs at half the salary of the striking workers.

      The sad irony is that many Democrats are for open borders where anyone who wants to take a job in America can just come in and offer themselves for a job at lower and lower wages.  

      Anyone who tries to show that adding more workers devalues the workers already existing in the job marker is berated as racist or xenophobe.

      The above example of Anna from the Philippines demonstrates that the situation exists where an educated teacher would accept a job where she had to sleep on a mattress on the floor in a kid's room.  Americans don't realize that this salary and accommodation is superior to what is available in her own country.

      How does a US citizen compete for nanny jobs when your competition, thanks to lax immigration enforcement,  has a degree in early childhood education and is willing to be available 24 hours and sleep on a mattress on the floor and work for $1.27 per hour?

      •  Well, this is where solidarity comes in. If you (0+ / 0-)

        had worldwide unions and more cooperation, this practice could be cut back. I know right now it's idealistic.

        "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

        by Wildthumb on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:48:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This post (0+ / 0-)

    is why I'm a Democrat and always will be.

    Who in the Republican party would EVER give a damn about these people?

    The future is green:

    by bogmanoc on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:29:31 PM PST

  •  Less money (0+ / 0-)

    To those who are disgustingly rich already and more to those lower on the totem pole will only help this country as a whole.

  •  I don't believe that domestic workers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silverleaf, a2nite

    are exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws (with few exceptions) -- see here.  More protections are definitely needed, however.

    Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

    by winsock on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:34:53 PM PST

  •  I'm middle class (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silverleaf, kkjohnson

    Don't have oodles of spending money, pension was eliminated by my longtime employer for a cash-poor 401K, etc.

    But, as a "gimme" to my often-demanding spouse, I agreed to hire a housecleaner for every-other week.  She does a nice job, but it's sort of an excuse for us not to clean a few days that week, since kids tend to mess up a place rather quickly.

    I pay her $70 for her service, which tends to last 2.5-3 hours.  It's less than when I hired the same person through a service, and instead of bargaining her down when she considered going independent, she proposed dropping the prior charge and is able to pocket all the money, now.  Seemed a good deal to me.  She's a first-generation citizen from Peru, btw.

    I have a chronic condition that hit 6-7 years ago which makes physical labor a frustrating challenge at times.  Yet, there's lots to do with a demanding spouse who really doesn't care how it gets done, but simply wants it done.

    One day, a peer parent told me of another first-generation worker they use for odd outdoor jobs, paying $10/hour on weekends.  I contacted him and paid double that for some key tasks (often working beside him), and he was worth every penny.  All my 2012 goals were completed!  But, I didn't tell the other parent how much I paid . . . their family kind of values their labor deal, have big cars and RVs, etc.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:36:56 PM PST

  •  I employ a house keeper (4+ / 0-)

    Foreign born, non -citizen
    For what it's worth I pay her $20.00 p/h.
    It is only fair, a living wage.
    If I am able to afford someone to do that work, I should be able to pay her fairly.

    •  indeed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I know way too many Entitled folks who really begrudge their employees a decent standard of living-- as if those women should be grateful just to be able to serve them..... And they really, truly don't get why there's a problem with the inequalities, as if hiring personal staff somehow exempts them from fairness ("I mean, gee, if I paid more, I wouldn't be able to go to my personal trainer or on vacation as often. It just wouldn't be fair to me!")

  •  We need to treat all workers equally. (0+ / 0-)

    Truck Drivers, Farm Workers, and Domestic Workers.

    There is not the slightest excuse for any of them being left out of the same overtime and break protections.

    "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

    by JesseCW on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:58:13 PM PST

  •  I agree with you, employers like the one (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you mention can rot in hell.

    The majority of women who do this nanny work, I would wager, have their own children at home, in many cases halfway around the world who they never get to visit. It is a tremendous social tragedy to have affluent Western women exploiting women from the developing world who do the housework and childcare that the wealthy women prefer not to do themselves--compounded by terribly inadequate wages like this--when it means a lifetime away from their own children.

    Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild co-edited a very powerful and disturbing anthology on this subject almost ten years ago: Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy. It is heartbreaking reading but it provides important baseline information and analysis.

    I'm seeking to organize DKos members in SE Michigan--roughly, from the Ohio line at Lake Erie NE to Port Huron, W to Flint and back S from there. If you'd like to join our new group, Motor City Kossacks (working title), please Kosmail me.

    by peregrine kate on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 10:01:35 PM PST

  •  Direct Care Alliance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Direct Care Workers United for Change

    Millions of Americans rely on direct care workers (home care aides, personal care attendants, personal assistants, nursing assistants, direct support professionals and others) for help with essentials like getting out of bed, getting dressed, and getting to work or to church--not to mention sensitive medical tasks. But low wages, poor benefits, insufficient training, and a lack of respect contribute to sky-high turnover rates. The Direct Care Alliance is working to remove these barriers.

    Learn more about DCA here:

    Direct Care Alliance (DCA)

    DCA on Facebook

    •  Increasing the salary offered (0+ / 0-)

      and enforcing immigration near-slavery conditions will go a longer way to changing the situation than relying on the goodness of employers.

      As long as we ignore illegal immigration, there will be a  population constantly arriving willing to undercut any minimum wage or working condition laws enacted.

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