Invisible Women: The Real History of Domestic Workers in America
Forget Fran Drescher: Real-life nannies, housecleaners, and cooks have long struggled against sexism, racism, and exclusionary laws.
As the push for immigration reform continues, the Senate Gang of Eight's plan includes measures that would make it easier for farmworkers—who play a role of "utmost importance in our nation"—to gain citizenship. Meanwhile, another major immigrant labor group that bolsters the US economy by freeing up the time of millions of other workers gets no such special treatment. For the nation's nannies, housekeepers, cooks, and companions to the elderly, this is just the latest slight in a long history of systematic exclusion from basic labor and human rights protections.
Last November, the National Domestic Workers Alliance commissioned the first ever national survey of 2,000 workers to shed light on an industry that exists quietly behind closed doors. The domestic workforce is composed mainly of immigrant women of color who earn substandard pay, rarely receive benefits or health care, and have virtually no lobbying power (unlike farmworkers, who have de facto help from cheap-labor-loving Big Ag).
In recent years, groups like the NDWA have made headway in the fight for worker protections, but they're fighting an uphill battle against many outdated but entrenched laws, some of which are rooted in the legacy of slavery. This timeline explores a few of the milestones in the little-known history of the industry in America, showing where these workers came from and how far they still have to go.