RH Reality Check: Hawaii Passes Domestic Workers’ Legislation, Mirrors New York’s in Substance

By Sheila Bapat, RH Reality Check, May 8, 2013

On April 30, just in time for May Day, Hawaii’s state house and senate passed adomestic workers’ bill of rights. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is highly likely to sign the legislation, evidenced by Hawaii First Lady Nancie Caraway’s letter of support for the legislation in senate testimony. Hawaii is thus poised to enact the nation’s second domestic workers’ bill of rights, establishing wage protections, overtime, rest breaks, and protection from abuse and harassment. The first such bill passed in New York in 2010.

But New York and Hawaii’s laws were passed in vastly different ways. New York’s law was the product of nearly a decade of grassroots organizing, movement building, and lobbying by domestic workers, while Hawaii’s law was pushed through in just a few years, driven by state legislators who are interested in supporting the national movement for domestic workers’ rights.

“Our feeling is that if six or seven states pass domestic workers’ legislation like this, we can be successful at the federal level in implementing reforms to the National Labor Relations Act and other legislation that excludes domestic workers,” said state Rep. Roy Takumi (D-Pearl City), who sponsored Hawaii’s legislation (S.B 535) and has been a key champion of domestic workers’ rights in the state.

Several other states have domestic workers’ bills pending; among them are California, where domestic workers’ legislation has twice been vetoed, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Oregon’s House of Representatives passed HB 2627, which provides overtime protections and guaranteed sleep for nannies and housekeepers; this bill now heads to the Oregon state senate....

Takumi decided to work on a Hawaii domestic workers’ bill of rights four years ago, after hearing National Domestic Workers’ Alliance director Ai-jen Poo speak at a Progressive States Network conference about how domestic workers have historically been excluded from all major labor protections, leaving them vulnerable to wage theft and exploitation. Takumi first introduced the legislation in 2011, but it failed to pass the state’s labor and economic development committee.


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