Early Thursday afternoon on the West Coast, Governor Jerry Brown tweeted a message: “Today, I signed a bill to help California’s domestic workers.”
Just sixty characters, the governor’s announcement brought Ai Jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance to tears: “Cannot stop crying tears of joy & pride. After 7 years of hard work & two vetoes, finally a victory for domestic workers in CA”, tweeted Poo.
The California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights will make California the third state in the nation with a bill of rights for domestic workers. (A similar law took effect in New York State in November 2010. Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie signed a domestic workers bill of rights this summer.) Enforcement is always an issue, but should it be implemented as intended, California’s new law will finally provide overtime pay to an estimated 200,000 California housekeepers, child care providers and caregivers when they work more than nine hours in a day or forty-five hours a week.
“Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who wrote the bill. “Now, they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person.”
A slightly broader version of Ammiano’s bill passed last year, only to be vetoed by the governor. What made the difference?
“Last year was hard. Getting up the next day was really difficult,” said Laphonza Butler, president of the SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, about the governor's veto last September. The SEIU ULCW was part of the broad coalition that worked with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the California Domestic Workers Coalition both years. This year's bill was known as AB 241.
For all the tweeting on announcement day, it wasn’t short-form social media so much as hard-slog footwork and long-term coalition building that turned things around in 2013, Butler said. “What made the difference was a lot of community and worker activity that made the governor realize we’ve got to do something about an economy that keeps workers in poverty.”