It’s Time to End Labor Rights Exclusion for Domestic Workers in NJ

By Dr. Patricia Medina Campos and Sindy Sanchez

In the last decade, NJ has led the way approving transformative laws that have improved workers’ lives such as the temporary workers bill of rights, yet domestic workers in NJ continued to be excluded from basic labor protections.

I have written before that in this moment of worker organizing activity, it is imperative that policy makers understand that current labor rights protections exclude domestic workers for basic labor rights protections.

Specifically, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) both established during the 1930s still exclude domestic workers from basic labor rights protections. These Jim Crow era labor law exclusions, continue to condemn this workforce, mostly made up of Black, immigrant and poor working class American workers, to exploitation and discrimination.

This February, as we end the long month celebration of Black History Month and we enter the state budget negotiation process, advocates and labor leaders are recommitting ourselves to continue to elevate the need for legislators to change this grave injustice and support the worker rights’ agenda of domestic workers.

Domestic workers today are asking simply for the NJ Legislature to protect their dignity and support their ability to have basic protections on the job granted to every worker in NJ; the right to a minimum wage, to a meal break, to scheduled time off, to sick leave and to health and safety on the job. Let’s remember that those rights are basic, yet because someone’s private home is a domestic workers’ place of employment, those rights are not guaranteed to any of them.

NJ laws currently maintain policies that actively discriminate against domestic workers. For example, domestic workers continue being excluded from the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination & Equal Pay Act and from the Worker Health and Safety Act. In New Jersey, domestic workers ( i.e. home care workers, nannies and house cleaners) are disproportionately affected by wage theft compared to other industries. Some domestic workers are even subject to sexual harassment and abuse, yet they have no legal recourse for redress.

The domestic work industry is one of the most critical sectors in the US today because it touches every aspect of our lives. Domestic workers take care of our children, our homes, our elderly parents and our family members in need of home care. As Ai-jen Poo, President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, states “Domestic work makes all other work possible.”

So the question is: why have labor protections not reached domestic workers yet? Because powerful business groups with vast economic resources continue to lobby Trenton against reform, arguing that any improvement in labor rights for homecare workers, is an impediment to their business profit making enterprise. Plainly put, even after a global pandemic that made clear that essential care workers are deserving of basic rights, home-care business interests in NJ are set on keeping the status quo of cheap and replaceable labor of domestic and home care workers.

Sindy Sachez, a home care worker in New Jersey, says it best: “Home care agencies do not want us to have rest and meal breaks or time off because they know we do the job of two people and get paid a misery; someone is benefiting while we are barely surviving.”

The thousands of domestic workers like Sindy Sanchez in NJ, understand what is at stake in their campaign to achieve basic labor rights, their dignity.

But all of us as consumers of care, should also pay attention to their plight as workers. It is time for us to support policies that take care of the care workers’ basic rights and well being so they are able to care for our loved ones.

As we conclude celebrating Black History Month, we thank the current sponsors of the current legislation (A882/S723) and we invite all of those Legislators who care about justice to join us in support of the NJ Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Domestic workers are essential to the economy of New Jersey and should be protected, respected, and compensated fairly for their labor.

It is critical that state legislators pass this bill so that domestic workers in New Jersey can join other states – including New York, Connecticut, and California –  who already acted to protect domestic workers.

Let’s get it done NJ!

Patricia Campos Medina is labor leader, educator, immigrant rights activist and the host of Activista Rise Up. You can follow her on Twitter at DrCamposMedina. Sindy Sanchez is a home care worker and a member of the NJ Chapter of the NDWA.

For more information on the NJ Domestic Workers Bill of Rights visit

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