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Domestic Worker Organizing in the United States: Reports from the Field

  • Harmony Goldberg (a1)

Most efforts of the current domestic workers’ rights movement in the United States have focused on ending the exclusion of domestic workers from employment protections that were institutionalized during the New Deal in the 1930s. These victories have been significant in both policy and culture. They have brought public attention to the invisibilized world of domestic work, and state recognition has validated this often-degraded occupation as “real work.” However, enforcement has been a problem. As domestic worker organizing has matured, it has expanded to include pushing the boundaries of state-ensured minimum standards as well as raising standards in the industry through direct intervention in the relationship between workers and employers. These programs are significant in that they reflect a different strategic approach—often with the goal of base building—than the earlier model of domestic worker advocacy and organizing.

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1. Harmony Goldberg, “Our Day Has Finally Come: Domestic Worker Organizing in New York City,” (Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 2014). Unless otherwise noted, information comes from this source.

2. Nadasen, Premilla, “Citizenship Rights, Domestic Work, and the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Journal of Policy History 24 (2012): 7494 .

3. Bryce Covert, “Big Wins For the People Who Clean Our Homes and Care for Our Children,” ThinkProgress, June 10, 2015, (accessed June 10, 2015).

4. Sylvia (domestic worker and DWU member) at New York City Domestic Workers Convention as observed by the author. December 2011.

5. NDWA meeting as observed by the author in New York City. February 2014, Field Notes in author's possession.

6. NDWA Assembly as observed by the author in Washington, D.C. April 2014, Field Notes in author's possession.

7. Mariana Viturro (Deputy Director of NDWA) in dialogue with the author, January 2015. Interview notes in author's possession.

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International Labor and Working-Class History
  • ISSN: 0147-5479
  • EISSN: 1471-6445
  • URL: /core/journals/international-labor-and-working-class-history
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