Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nanny more vacation than her employer?

To a European employment lawyer the list of demands of domestic workers in the bill of rights sounds completely reasonable: paid vacation days, severance payment at termination, sick days, etc. However, when I think more about the general legal climate with regard to employment in this country, it seems more complicated. Most employees simply do not have much protection or job security in the US. Why would domestic workers be entitled to more than the average employee? An article in the Village Voice:

"Why should domestic workers get twice the minimum wage?" asked one mother on's chat board. Another mom wrote that the bill was "absurd," considering that "most of us don't even get three weeks of vacation. My nanny should get four?"

It is argued that domestic workers deserve a better position because of their vulnerable and easily exploitable position. That makes sense, but I really wonder how twice the minimum wage will be accepted. I invite the ones who know more about this issue to explain to me how they think this will be justified, also from a legal perspective (since I am not a US attorney)

legal protection nannies

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mommy's watching

Is placing a nannycam or using other parents to watch a nanny, like the site does, an invasion of nannies' privacy or is it a good method of controlling an otherwise uncontrollable job? The Time Out Kids of this month has an article about the surveillance of nannies.
Some parents like it, because they can finally check what is going on when they are not around. Apparently even some nannies like it, because it protects them against accusations of things they did not do. What does this say about trust in the relationship between parents and nannies?

mommy's watching

How is my nanny?
Where is my baby?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Blog for domestic workers justice day

Salty Femme let me know that today is the "blog for domestic workers justice day". Today she writes an interesting piece about domestic workers justice from a feminist perspective. She describes how the domestic burden has shifted from middle class white women to working class immigrant women of color. The first group has pursued careers that match their education, but not without the help of the second group that has facilitated those careers by taking care of the domestic work.
salty femme

I agree: domestic work is not valued as real work. This is not only true in the US, but also in Europe. I have been a full time mother for a year now and several people have asked me how I like "doing nothing". I usually do not bother to explain how much work "doing nothing" is.

Salty Femme writes about how domestic work was and continues to be considered unskilled labor. I think it is unskilled labor. I never received any training for being a mother or a housekeeper, but somehow I was trusted to do this job. And thousands of mothers ánd domestic workers are too.
But the fact that domestic work is unskilled labor does not mean that it is "doing nothing". Working in a factory can also be unskilled labor, but it is definitely not considered doing nothing. It does not mean that you cannot be good or bad at it or that you cannot improve yourself. Just take a look at all the books on parenting and childcare. Also, the fact that domestic work is unskilled labor does not mean that it is not important. The labor of domestic workers is one of the backbones of the New York economy and of many other economies in the world. Most importantly: the label of unskilled labor certainly should not lead to nannies and other domestic workers being exploited, abused or treated unequal. Nannies and other domestic workers in New York are often (illegal) new immigrants in a very vulnerable position who deserve to be treated equal to all other workers. That is why I support the Bill of Rights for domestic workers.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

More on the Bill of Rights

In the New York Times Steven Greenhouse also writes about the Bill of Rights for domestic workers.

Although the Bill has 15 supporters in the State Assembly, it may face rough going. The $14 minimum wage for domestic workers is much higher than the state-wide minimum wage of $7.15-an-hour. State officials state their discomfort with legislation that singles out a specific group for a higher minimum wage, especially one so much higher than the statewide minimum.

bill of rights

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bill of Rights Domestic Workers

Today the daily news had an interesting article about an upcoming bill of rights for domestic workers. It is great that the importance of the work of nannies and other domestic workers is being acknowledged and that domestic workers are entitled to the same legal protection as other workers with this bill.

Why has it been so hard to introduce such a bill before? And why is New York apparently the first state to come up with such a bill?

bill of rights

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A year ago I moved from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to New York with my husband and my son. The first two months I spent most of the time with my son in the playgrounds of the Upper West Side, the area where I live. I was surprised that there were so many playgrounds in New York. Also, I was surprised to see so many nannies, Latina's, Phillipina's, women from Caribbean descent, with so many white children. Sometimes I was the only mom in the playground. A friend told me that the daughter of a friend of hers from the Netherlands had asked her how it was possible that all white children had black mommies in New York. That is when I decided that I wanted to do more research on the nanny culture in New York and write a book about it.
How does it feel for the nannies to raise someone else's children in a culture that is totally different from their own? And how does it feel for the employers to leave their children with somebody with whom they do not share the same cultural background and with whom they may sometimes not even be able to communicate? Are these nannies well paid middle class employees or are they illegal immigrants who are exploited by their employers? How is the relationship between the nannies and their employers? Are there a lot of conflicts? And what about the children? Is the nanny culture in New York healthy for them? What does it teach them about issues of race, class, gender and culture?
I will put posts on this blog to keep you updated on my research. I invite nannies, parents and anyone else who is interested in this subject to share your story's, ideas and opinions on this subject on this blog, so it can be used for my book.