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Jerry Brown vetoes domestic workers bill of rights

on October 1, 2012

The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday.

The bill, designed for workers who act as babysitters and homecare providers, would have mandated rest and meal breaks and overtime pay to domestic workers in California, making it the second state in the country after New York to do so.

“It was a big betrayal,” an angry-sounding Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, one of the bill’s co-authors, said in a phone interview Monday. “Maybe he lived an entitled upbringing,” Ammiano said, referring to Brown. “He should be able to step back and see the situation that these people are involved in — with no protection.”

In order to simplify the bill and clarify that the workers were to be included as part of the labor force, the final version was stripped of any specific regulations.  The Department of Industrial Relations would have been responsible for specifying when workers would take breaks, time off and receive overtime.

Gov. Brown said the bill was a “noble endeavor” to help improve the circumstances of domestic workers, however, the bill raised some unanswered questions. 

“What will be the economic and human impact on the disabled or elderly person and their family of requiring overtime, rest and meal periods for attendants who provide 24 hour care?” Brown stated in his veto message.  “What will be the additional costs and what is the financial capacity of those taking care of loved ones in the last years of life?”

Ammiano and domestic workers in the area will continue to lobby for changes to the labor laws governing their work, which includes campaigning to ensure that employers are aware of their responsibilities to provide a just and safe workplace for their employees.

“We just feel very betrayed,” said Andrea Mercado, political director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, an organization with offices in San Francisco and Oakland that focuses on issues related to Latina immigrant women like immigration laws, workers’ rights and social services. “Big movements create the context for great acts of leadership. We had the opportunity to lead the state and to lead the nation, and Governor Brown made the unfortunate decision not to.”

Read the full text of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and about its voting history in the Assembly and the Senate.

Read Theresa Adams’ article in Oakland North for more information about the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Read Madeleine Thomas’ article in Oakland North for more information about mixed opinions regarding the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.


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