The Constitutional Path to Domestic Worker Organizing and Collective Bargaining Rights Under New York State Private Sector Labor



Many of the United States’ foundational labor laws, as well as even obscure state statutes, devote one or two easily overlooked sentences to divesting an especially vulnerable class of laborers—domestic workers—of their rights to a fair wage, to reasonable hours, to a union, and to protection from retaliation for organizing to improve their lot. This exclusion is not an accident; it is a vestige of Jim Crow and a codification of the demeaned status of a category of labor that is predominantly performed by women. Recent efforts to right this wrong have neglected collective bargaining laws, in part because of a misplaced belief that the domestic labor relationship is unconducive to collective bargaining, and currently no federal or state law protects or acknowledges domestic workers’ right to a union. However, recent case law presents a roadmap for establishing New York domestic workers’ right to organize and extending an effective infrastructure to enforce that right. This Article charts that path and addresses legal and policy considerations, while emphasizing that domestic labor is deserving of the rights, freedoms, and dignity to which all workers are entitled.

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