Domestic workers launch campaign as Seattle looks at new rights for nannies and house cleaners

Seattle officials are set to take part Thursday in a political campaign with help from the advocacy organization Working Washington to help nannies and house cleaners win new rights.

Nannies and house cleaners may be the next group of workers to win new rights from Seattle City Hall.

Three City Council members and a representative from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office are set to take part Thursday as domestic workers launch a political campaign with help from the advocacy organization Working Washington.

“This is a very, very vulnerable population,” said Caitlin Heermans, who is a nanny and household manager. “Because we have such close relationships with the people who employ us, we don’t feel like we have much power to advocate for the things we need.”

The new Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance wants the city to make sure nannies, house cleaners, cash-paid home-health aides and other household workers are covered by the same labor protections as other employees, said Sage Wilson, a Working Washington spokesman.

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The alliance also wants Seattle to require written contracts between employers and domestic workers and wants a new city commission created to set and monitor labor standards in the domestic-work industry. The commission would include both workers and employers,  said Wilson.

Though domestic workers are theoretically covered by the city’s sick-time and minimum-wage laws, it can be difficult for individuals workers to assert their rights, and they aren’t covered by the federal law that requires overtime pay, Wilson said. He recounted a story of a nanny being let go after injuring her foot on the job.

Wage theft is rampant, with employers finding ways to underpay nannies, said Heermans, who connects with other workers while out and about with the child she cares for and on Facebook. The 30-year-old said she’s been working as a nanny for many…

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