Seattle will be the first city in the country to enact legislation meant to help domestic workers. A group of workers cheered the City Council’s vote, while others worried about unintended consequences.
Seattle nannies, house cleaners and other domestic workers will be entitled to minimum pay, rest breaks and representation on a special board.
The City Council voted Monday to guarantee those rights, making Seattle the first city in the country to enact legislation meant to help domestic workers, according to Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who championed the cause. Eight states have taken similar steps.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said she intends to sign the legislation.
“For far too long, domestic workers have lived and worked in the shadows,” Mosqueda said in a statement.
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To be enforced starting July 1, 2019, by the Office of Labor Standards, the legislation says domestic workers classified as independent contractors and domestic workers who live in the homes where they work must be paid at least the equivalent of Seattle’s minimum wage. Those classified as employees already are supposed to be paid at least the minimum wage.
The legislation says workers must receive or be compensated for breaks and it prohibits bosses from retaining workers’ personal documents, such as passports.
Domestic workers who campaigned for the legislation with support from Casa Latina, Working Washington and SEIU 775 asked the city to require written contracts between workers and bosses and create a portable-benefits system. Instead, the legislation will create a 13-member, appointed board of worker and employer representatives to advise on regulations covering those and other topics.
Many domestic workers are women, people of color and immigrants, backers of the legislation said.
“We want our work to be uplifted and recognized as valuable,” house cleaner Enriqueta Vega said in Spanish through an interpreter Monday, urging the council to pass the legislation.
A group of domestic workers cheered at City Hall after the vote. Some others have concerns, said nanny Zoey Jordan Salsbury.
The break regulations may prove confusing, the legislation could encourage misclassification of nannies as contractors, and enforcement will be difficult, she said in a phone interview.
Jordan Salsbury said she and some other nannies felt their requests for regulations such as guaranteed hours were sidelined and their voices drowned out by the influential organizations driving the campaign.
“It just felt like people weren’t really listening,” she said.
The Office of Labor Standards will need to hire one to four additional staff to oversee the new domestic-worker regulations and board, according to city estimates.