Domestic workers are the cornerstone of the New York City economy. Over 200,000 nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers in the New York Metropolitan area keep New York families functioning and make all other work possible. But they are a workforce in crisis.

In the face of the recession, domestic workers are among the hardest hit. This quote from the website of Domestic Workers United — a group fighting for a domestic worker’s bill of rights — illustrates the conditions they face on a daily basis:

“We work alone, isolated in our employer’s houses.  We often get no time off, even to deal with medical emergencies.  Domestic workers keep New York families healthy and functioning, but the precarious nature of our employment keeps our own families in constant crisis.  With the economic downturn, that crisis has deepened. “

The solution in the eyes of activists from DWU is a Bill of Rights.  They have pushed legislation into the Senate that amends New York State labor law to guarantee basic work standards and protections: time-and-a-half for every hour over 40 hours per week; one day off per 7-day calendar week; a limited number of paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days; protection from employment discrimination; and advance notice of termination. All the rights the rest of us take for granted.

This week we’ll speak to members of Domestic Workers United about their struggle and hear directly from workers affected.

>> Listen to 12/15/09: Domestic Workers United