With the final day of the spring legislative session only weeks away, state lawmakers will be very busy in the coming days, holding committee meetings and taking final votes in both the House and Senate. One very intriguing bill that will likely come before both legislative chambers is Senate Bill 1708, which would essentially create a domestic workers' bill of rights.
For those unfamiliar with domestic workers, they are essentially the men (and mostly) women who act as caregivers, nannies and/or house cleaners for households throughout Illinois. While there is no precise figure on the number of domestic workers in the state, experts have indicated that it is well into the hundreds of thousands.
This is significant because domestic workers have historically been denied even the most basic protections under state and federal law.
"The protections that so many other workers take for granted like the right to overtime, for example, domestic workers just aren't afforded those same protections," said Andrea Mercado, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
SB 1708, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), calls for some of the following protections to be extended to all domestic workers in Illinois:
- Payment of no less than minimum wage
- One day of rest per week
- Written contracts outlining everything from wages and hours to leave polices and eligibility for workers' compensation benefits
- Paid time off
- Meal and rest periods
Sen. Silverstein's bill is being lauded by worker advocacy groups across the state as a necessary and long overdue measure that will improve the quality of life for those people who make such a vital contribution to the state's economy.
"We think that [the bill is an incredibly important step forward that helps us in making a societal shift and shifting towards really recognizing all of the work that goes into caring for elders and caring for children and our homes in this country," said Mercado.
SB 1708 still has a long way to go before becoming law however. It must still be approved by both chambers and Governor Pat Quinn, who hasn't expressed a stance on the measure.
To date, only New York has adopted a domestic workers' bill of rights. However, four other states -- in addition to Illinois -- are currently considering similar legislative measures, including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Oregon.
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Source: Progress Illinois, "Domestic workers' bill of rights expected to go up for vote in Illinois senate Thursday," Ellyn Fortino, April 24, 2013