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article imageVideo: The world of nannies, being invisible in a visible world

By Can Tran     Nov 30, 2012 in World
With recent talks about the nanny profession, Ai-Jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and one of the 2012 TIME 100, gives an in-depth look in the world of domestic workers in the US.
Recently, one of the biggest cases going on in the United States involves 50-year old Yoselyn Ortega. Ortega, who worked as a nanny, is currently arraigned for the murders of two young children that were in her care. Ortega's next court date is set for January 16, 2013. For the time being, the judge has ordered Ortega to be held without bail and to have a psychiatric evaluation. She worked as the nanny for the Krim family's children for about two years. So far, it didn't seem that the relationship was going so well due to financial problems. According to Ortega, what the Krim family was paying her wasn't enough for the hours she worked taking care of the children.
In this respect, it brings up the question about what it's like to be in the field of domestic work. From the media reports, it seems that the nanny profession is underrated and under-appreciated. New York Daily News reports that being a nanny or any other type of domestic worker does not pay much. Domestic workers, especially nannies, are overworked and underpaid. This information was released via a study conducted by the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
A sizable percentage of live-in nannies and/or housekeepers tend to get less than five hours of sleep at night. This is coming from the National Domestic Workers Alliance study. Furthermore, it is pointed out that domestic work is usually performed by immigrants. Despite the New York's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, passed in 2010, those laws have neither been extended nor applied to personal households.
For further information, one should look at what Ai-jen Poo is doing. Recently, she has both submitted an article piece and video onto the TIME Magazine website. Poo is a known labor organizer and activist. She has been named one of the world's most influential people according to TIME. Thus, she's listed as one of the TIME 100.
In a TIME article by Gloria Steinem on Ai-jen Poo, dated April of 2012, she is the daughter of pro-democracy immigrants from Taiwan. Activism seems to be Poo's path since being a student. It all started out when she heard stories of domestic workers receiving low pay for the long hours of labor they worked through.
Currently, Poo is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The goal of this organization is fighting for the right on behalf of domestic workers. In one article on NY1, Poo said that this is about the soul of the United States and the core of human dignity. Back to the previous TIME article by Steinem, Poo's group is an umbrella organization with 35 satellite organizations across the country.
Not only does Poo serve as the director off the National Domestic Workers Alliance, she also serves as co-director for the group called Caring Across Generations. That group's mission is dedicated towards quality care, support, dignity, and quality of life for all generations of Americans.
A few days ago, on November 27, Poo wrote an article on TIME's website. The article is called “The Invisible World of Nannies, Housekeepers and Caregivers.” The first paragraph starts off with the saying of “like a member of the family.” However, Poo points out that the saying is subjective. In the case of this article, “being like a member” is very far from being treated like an actual family member.
Poo focuses on a specific person named Anna. Anna is from the Philippines. Back there, she worked as a teacher. Then, she ended up working as a live-in Nanny in Midtown Manhattan. Ortega, who has been arraigned, worked in Manhattan's Upper West Side. For Anna, as a nanny, she only made $1.27 per hour. That's very much below the legal minimum wage. On top of that, she hasn't been given a single day off despite working as a nanny for that family for almost a year and a half.
According to the study, as already mentioned, almost a quarter of domestic workers in general are paid below minimum wage. When you factor in the live-in workers such as nannies and housekeepers, almost seventy percent are paid below minimum wage. In this respect, there are many other people going through the same thing that Anna is going through.
One can ask: How do these people get away with shafting domestic workers like that?
In Poo's article, there are loopholes that have been exploited. One would be the lack of formal contracts let alone the lack by personal households. Since the NY Domestic Workers Bill of Rights doesn't extend to personal households, those families aren't obligated contracts with domestic workers. Further loopholes include the lack of guidelines and standards. Again, that goes back to the limits of that bill of rights.
Almost 2,100 workers were interviewed and a third said they worked five or more hours without breaks. That means, almost 700 workers have reported this to the researchers. Even if they work over 40 hours per week, there is no overtime pay.
As terms of conditions, they do not look favorable. When doing stuff like cleaning, workers have to use various chemicals. There are cleaning chemicals that are toxic. In case of nannies, there is the health risk of dealing with sick children in their care.
At the end of this article, Poo is saying that there's an opportunity now to reverse all that. Poo, in the article and video, gives people a close and in-depth look the lives of domestic workers let alone nannies. In regards for the bill of rights for domestic workers across the United States, this can become a pretty decent debate topic. This is because we have the 2014 US Elections coming up where there are many US Senate and US House seats for grabs. Also, this can expand into governor and mayoral races.
The topic of domestic workers' rights could be something Republicans and Democrats can spar on let alone during the 2014 campaign cycle.
More about Time magazine, time 100, aijen poo, Domestic workers, Nanny
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