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Seattle City Council approves labor standards for domestic workers

Gardeners are included in Seattle's new domestic workers rights legislation. (Lee Reich via AP)

The Seattle City Council voted, 7-0, to guarantee labor standards for domestic workers, which include nannies, house cleaners, and gardeners.

The labor standards include paying workers at least the minimum hourly wage, regular breaks (or compensation if a break is impossible), a 24-hour rest period after six consecutive days if the worker lives or sleeps at the place of employment, and ability to retain personal and/or original documents.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s legislation — CB 119286 — also would create a Domestic Workers Standards Board that would “provide staff and logistical support, including but not limited to translation, outreach, and travel expenses, and work with the Board to determine appropriate support for the Board members and their activities.” The board will convene in the first quarter of 2019. Other provisions of the ordinance will take effect in July 1, 2019.

The Office of Labor Standards will oversee regulations.

The changes will apply to domestic workers regardless of classification. The Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance reports there are approximately 33,000 domestic workers in Seattle, including nannies, house cleaners, and home-care workers.

Maria Luisa Cruz spoke through an interpreter and told the council the regulations are critical.

“I’m not that young anymore and I’ve cleaned homes for many years,” she said. “I’ve been a domestic worker for many year. And I’ve asked myself, what will happen when I can no longer work.”

The Seattle Times reports eight states have enacted similar legislation. Seattle is the first city in the country to do the same.

Mayor Jenny Durkan applauded last week Mosqueda and the Housing, Health, Energy & Workers’ Rights Committee’s legislation to “help protect Seattle’s domestic workers.”

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