Tuesday Trends: Domestic Workers, a new force in labor?
Nanny X comment: ‘What are the financial consequences on working families of an increasingly mobilized labor force? And how do ‘undocumented Nannies’ factor into the equation? Watch this movement – as I believe that, without federal reform (tax rebates, tax reform) working families (domestic economics) will be squeezed into more desperate childcare solutions as this labor movement gains strength. What do you think are credible solutions to this problem?’
AARON SHOWALTER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Members of the Domestic Workers Justice Coalition, rallied in Manhattan in March, 2009 to call for a domestic worker’s bill of rights and call attention to the case of nanny Patricia Francois, who charged she was physically abused by her employer.
An angry crowd, outraged by the abuses said to be perpetrated on a loving nanny by her employers, was expected to rally on Thursday to send them an unmistakable message: Never again.
Dozens of domestic workers and supporters, among them Occupy Wall Street activists, would gathe to protest the mistreatment that Patricia Francois, 53, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who lives in Flatbush, said she suffered at the hands of her employers while she took care of their daughter.
“The little girl I was taking care of is a wonderful little girl. I stayed in the job for a long time because of her, even though I endured a lot of verbal abuse,” Francois said. “And even though I have a family back home depending on me, he crossed the line by hitting me.”
“He” is filmmaker Matthew Mazer and and according to Francois, he punched her in the face more than three years ago.
The situation of Francois and other women like her is ironic: While we trust them with our most precious possessions — our children, our elderly parents, our homes — they have traditionally been among the most exploited and abused of society’s laborers.
“We are the part of the 99% that is directly in contact with the 1% of this country every single day,” said Jocelyn Gill-Campbell, a former nanny and organizer with Domestic Workers United, the largest coalition of nannies, housekeepers and caretakers in the city.
“Domestic workers care for them, their loved ones, and the most precious elements of their lives, yet we are abused and mistreated,” Gill-Campbell added.
A nanny who spent 6-1/2 years caring for affluent Manhattan documentary filmmaker Mazer’s young daughter, she is currently suing him and his wife, sports agent Sheryl Shade, for assault and battery as well as an unspecified amount of unpaid overtime. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by Francois with the support of Domestic Workers United amnd is still making its way through court.
Francois charges that on Dec. 18, 2008, Mazer punched her in the face after she tried to stop him from yelling at his daughter who was 8 at the time. She was left with a black eye and blurred vision, she says.
Mazer denied the allegation through a lawyer, Robert Gaulin. “Actually, she attacked my client,” Gaulin said. “He never touched her.”
“I have photos of the bruises,” said Francois, who alleges Mazer called her a “stupid black bitch,” and told her he hoped she died “a horrible death.”
Francois is currently receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer and is no longer working.
In 2010, New York became the first state to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, guaranteeing minimum standards for New York’s over 200,000 privately employed, mostly immigrant women, nannies, housekeepers, and elder caregivers, such as paid days of rest and protection from discrimination and harassment.
But as advocates who worked for six years to pass the landmark legislation explain, abuse and exploitation will continue unless employers who violate domestic workers’ rights are brought to justice.
Yet, real progress has been made.
“Since the law passed,” said Gill-Campbell, “assaults are not as prevalent as before. Now it is more overtime issues, more common labor type disputes.”
Compared to the abuse Francois and so many other women have endured, that’s certainly progress.