Illinois Domestic Workers Celebrate Hard-Fought Landmark Victory

Win in Illinois brings movement one state closer to securing labor rights for all domestic workers

Chicago, IL –(ENEWSPF)–August 17, 2016.  Today Illinois home cleaners, nannies and care workers celebrated a significant victory in the growing movement for domestic workers’ rights through the state’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. After a five-year campaign led by the Illinois Domestic Workers Coalition, the state’s 35,000 workers won a monumental change in state law. The 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act explicitly excluded domestic workers, majority of whom are Black women, women of color and immigrant women, and was mimicked by many states, including Illinois.

Following years of worker organizing, on Friday August 12th, Gov. Rauner signed House Bill 1288 into law granting Illinois domestic workers the same protections that other workers have had for generations.

Polish domestic worker Magdalena Zylinska reflected on the five-year Illinois Domestic Worker Coalition’s campaign: “This is one step in a long process. After so many years of struggling to get by, and so many trips to Springfield, I can finally say that we won! Now we need to make sure that all domestic workers know their rights, and that employers know their responsibilities under the new law.”

The new law, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-8th District) in the Senate, and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-24th District) in the House, ensures that  home cleaners, nannies, care workers, and other domestic workers receive the state minimum wage, protection against sexual harassment, as well as a day of rest if they are employed by one employer for at least 20 hours a week by amending four state laws that previously excluded domestic workers: the Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Human Rights Act, the One Day of Rest in Seven Act, and the Wages of Women and Minors Act.

House sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez noted the importance of the domestic workforce in Illinois: “Domestic workers are essential for the economy, but too often are excluded. That is, until now.”

Workers like Maria Esther Bolaños shared stories of working without legal protections: “When I started working as a nanny, I worked from 6am to 5pm earning $12 a day. With the signing of this law, we have come out of the shadows. Domestic workers are finally visible in society, with equal protections under the law. Together, we are going to make history.”

Wendy Pollack, director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law who led the legislative advocacy on the bill, explained the employer mindset change: “We talk to employers, many of them sincerely care about the workers they employ, and often think of them as part of the family, but then they don’t make the leap to the fact that there exists an employer-employee relationship between them. That’s why we plan to do outreach and education for both domestic workers and their employers about their rights and responsibilities under the new state law and the existing federal law.“

Yomara Velez, States Strategy Organizer at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, noted the significance of the Illinois victory on a national scale: “The Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights marks the seventh state win of the domestic workers movement, which had its first legislative victory in New York in 2010. We are another state closer to ensuring that all domestic workers, who care for our children, our loved ones living with disabilities, our aging parents, and our homes, have respect, dignity, and the support to take care of their own families.”

Home care worker Grace Padao reflected on the coalition and the path to victory, “We won because we are organized. We won because we are united.  We won because we are brave women who stood in front of politicians and said, we will not be denied! From this day forward, domestic workers in Illinois will never have to endure the conditions I did.”

Rev. Oscar Varnadoe gave a blessing over the workers, prefacing his prayer with his own connection to the campaign: “This is personal. My mother was a domestic worker. As a young boy growing up in the Englewood community, I saw what she was going through. Blessings you my sisters for the work have done and for the work ahead.”

The Illinois Domestic Workers’ Coalition is powered by local organizations, including AFIRE Chicago, Arise Chicago, Latino Union, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Women Employed, Heartland Alliance, and SEIU-HCII, as well as domestic workers, advocacy and community groups, and allies. The Coalition is supported by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. For more information, please visit: