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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Labor Organizer: Nannies Are ‘Invisible Army’ Underlying The Economy

Domestic workers in California demonstrate in favor of a bill of rights, similar to what organizer Ai-jen Poo created in New York. (Courtesy of Domestic Workers Alliance)

Domestic workers in California demonstrate in favor of a bill of rights, similar to what organizer Ai-jen Poo created in New York. (Courtesy of Domestic Workers Alliance)

Here & Now Guest:

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-jen Poo became interested in the plight of nannies and housekeepers after meeting a Jamaican domestic worker. That worker had left her home country with high hopes, only to end up toiling long hours,  allegedly without pay, in an employer’s home for 16 years, according to a New York Times profile of Poo.

Poo has come across several similar stories, and she’s been working to organize domestic workers to get better workplace treatment, increased pay and benefits.

She helped create and now directs the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a collection of dozens of domestic workers’ organizations across the country. She also helped form the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York that establishes a basic standard of pay and vacation for workers.

Poo says it’s important to protect domestic workers, who form an “invisible army of workers that goes into people’s homes… before the sun rises oftentimes, to allow for all the other workers, in corporate law firms, professors, doctors… to go to work and do what they do.”

“It just really points to how invisible, yet vital, this workforce is in the economy,” Poo told WBUR’s Here & Now.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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