Ai-jen Poo and the Fight for Domestic Workers’ Rights

Ai-jen Poo and the Fight for Domestic Workers’ Rights

I rarely circulate mass emails at our office. But after reading  Barbara Ehrenreich’s New York Times profile of Ai-jen Poo, “The Nannies’ Norma Rae,” I found myself doing just that. Founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen was the lead organizer behind New York’s domestic workers bill of rights.

Her vision of a new form of organizing that unites organized labor, civil rights groups, feminist organizations, and immigrant rights advocates forged one of the few successful workers rights campaigns in recent history.

Ai-jen’s work was seeded by an Open Society Foundations NYC Community Fellowship nearly 10 years ago. The Democracy and Power Fund and Equality and Opportunity Fund are currently proud cofunders of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Did you read the Times article? What did you think?

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Well-deserved attention to a fantastic organizer. I first met Ai-jen in 2004 or 2005 at a DWU/Jews for Racial and Economic Justice meeting. One of the real innovations of the fight to pass the bill in New York was engaging employers, especially via faith groups. JFREJ organized many synagogues, which in turn organized their members, to support the bill and to stand up as both workers and employers in support of model contracts. My own synagogue held study sessions for congregants about the bill and took groups to Albany to lobby. DWU conquered New York - now on to the rest of the country!

Domestic workers need protection wherever they are found. But there is a conondrum like what is facing South Africa at the moment. That is the over supply of foreign domestic workers. These workers by virtue of their constuency in the country they can not fight for their rights. What is small in South Africa is actually a privelege to them. What do the local domestic worker have to do? There lies the dilema.

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