There are few jobs in North America where exploitation of gender, race, and class intersect so sharply as in domestic work, where immigrant women from around the world labour in the homes of wealthy families in what are often dismal conditions: low wages, no security, fear of violence and deportation, and overwork. The situation of live-in caregivers (as they’re officially called by the state, erasing the fact that these women work, hard) in Canada briefly made headlines when MP Ruby Dhalla was accused of mistreating Magdalene Gordo and Richelyn Tongso. There has been a lot of academic and activist attention to the struggles of domestic workers in Canada, with groups calling for the elimination of the government program that capitalizes on historically undervalued work and the desperate economic situations of women around the world.
And so it is inspiring to read Lizzy Ratner’s article “The New Domestic Order,” a piece that describes the courage domestic workers in New York City have mustered to fight back against abuses and call for a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which could be the first of its kind. Women are calling for “severance and overtime pay, advance notice of termination, one day off a week, holidays, healthcare and annual cost of living increases, among other fundamental rights.” Seems pretty basic, huh? Ratner’s article looks at the history of domestic workers’ struggles for rights in the US and outlines the global political economic conditions that compel so many women around the world to migrate to work in other women’s homes. The story is heartbreaking and exhilarating; well worth a read.