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Aug. 17, 2022

Domestic Workers Part 2: Community Organizing Strategies & Contexts Historically & Today

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We're continuing our conversation about domestic labor with a deep dive into the historical and current practice of  organizing domestic workers for dignity and respect including:

  • the role of storytelling in building collective identity
  • community organizing strategies in and beyond legislated labor protections
  • professionalizing the workforce through narratives and negotiations
  • the politics of care work


Allison Julien is the We Dream in Black Organizing Director for the National Domestic Worker’s AllianceListen to her full interview onPatreon(running time: 01:41:59)

Adela Seally is a professional nanny and childcare specialist, mother of seven, and a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance - New York We Dream in Black Chapter.  Listen to her full interview onPatreon(running time: 00:59:38)

Rose Gloria* is nanny who has worked with over 50 families in the last 15 years. Her identity and voice have been changed to protect her identity. Listen to her full interview onPatreon(running time: 02:26:08)

Premilla Nadasen is a Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University and the author of “Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement.” Listen to her full interview onPatreon(running time: 01:05:28)

Nikki Brown-Booker is the Program Officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. She is a person with a disability who employs six domestic workers. Listen to her full interview onPatreon(running time: 00:56:24)

Learn more about podcast guests here and read their full bios!


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Creator, Host and HBIC: Taja Lindley

Audio Engineering by Lilah Larson

Music by Emma Alabaster who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer

Additional Music Production by Chip Belton

Vocals by Patience Sings

Mixing and Mastering by Chip Belton

Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster

Logo and Graphic Design Templates by Homegirl HQ

This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustleand supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project

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Producer’s Note:The Black Women's Dept. of Labor is produced as a podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of transcription software and human transcribers, and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting bycontactingus.

[00:00:00] Patience Sings: My labor's the foundation. Life at the intersections. I am my own creation. I do not dream of work.

[00:00:20] Allison Julien: The domestic work industry is the wild, wild west.

[00:00:23] Premilla Nadasen: There's been a long history of exclusion of domestic work from labor unions. 

[00:00:28] Allison Julien: Domestic workers are real workers. 

[00:00:31] Premilla Nadasen: They were working for dignity and respect.

[00:00:35] Patience Sings: Black women the foundation. Life at the interscetions. Source of divine creations. Now listen now converse.

[00:00:49] Premilla Nadasen: There have been many instances of organized resistance. 

[00:00:54] Allison Julien: These antiquated labor laws need to be changed.

[00:00:58] Nikki Brown-Booker: The bill had to go through three legislative cycles before it was finally passed. 

[00:01:03] Patience Sings: Using our labor for more than wages. Our bliss, our rage, they're both contagious. Beyond the grind, we move through time. Joy is the compass. We live in our purpose. Telling our own stories, birthing new possibilities.

[00:01:30] Taja Lindley: You are listening to the Black Women's Dept. of Labor, a project and podcast by yours truly, Taja Lindley, where we examine the intersections of race, gender, and the double entendre of labor: to work and to give birth. 

[00:01:42] Taja Lindley: Welcome to part two of our conversation about domestic labor. 

[00:01:46] Taja Lindley: In our last episode, you met three Black women domestic workers, and heard their stories of negotiating boundaries, caring for family while providing care as part-time and full-time workers, and some of the challenging realities that domestic workers face while providing their services in private homes. 

[00:02:01] Taja Lindley: You also got to hear from a woman of color with a disability about her experiences of navigating class dynamics as an employer of domestic workers. 

[00:02:09] Taja Lindley: In this episode, we're going to examine historical and current organizing strategies of domestic workers in the U.S., and why organizing for dignified and fair labor practices in care work is important. 

[00:02:20] Taja Lindley: As a reminder, this episode is a collage of excerpts of interviews with our guests. So if you'd like to listen to the full length interviews and conversations that inform this episode, head on over to These recordings are available for all tiers. 

[00:02:36] Taja Lindley: However, if you join at the Creative Conversation level or above, you'll be able to access the upcoming Taja Tuesday Artist Talk on September 6th - the day after Labor Day!, where I will be sharing more about the process and vision for this podcast. 

[00:02:50] Taja Lindley: If you're unable to make it to the live virtual event, no worries. It will be recorded and you can watch the replay exclusively on Patreon. 

[00:02:59] Taja Lindley: Now let's get into this episode.

[00:03:06] Premilla Nadasen: I'm from South Africa. And my mother, when she was an older child, had to drop out of school in the eighth grade. And she washed clothes for white families in South Africa as a way to put her brothers through school. And my grandmother worked as a domestic worker for many years in South Africa. So I have a personal connection to the occupation. 

[00:03:26] Taja Lindley: That's Premilla Nadasen, a historian who was also deeply committed to economic justice. You heard from her briefly in our last episode when she explained the mammy stereotype. 

[00:03:35] Taja Lindley: I invited her to be on the podcast because she wrote a book entitled "Household Workers Unite: The Untold Stories of African-American Women Who Built A Movement." This book documents the history of domestic worker organizing in the mid 20th century.

[00:03:49] Premilla Nadasen: If our history of domestic work is coming from employers or people with power, we get a very different um, narrative of that occupation. So my intention was really to uplift and center the voices of domestic workers themselves, especially Black domestic workers. 

[00:04:06] Premilla Nadasen: Um, so I looked at oral histories that were done of them. I looked at the archival papers that they kept. Although, you know, with poor people in general, especially poor women of color, they tend not to keep their documents. So there are not very good archives. I interviewed people when I could, a lot of people had passed, however. They're hard to find. 

[00:04:28] Taja Lindley: Now, before we get into the history of domestic worker organizing that Premilla researched in her book, let's talk a bit about the industry. 

[00:04:35] Taja Lindley: Who are the folks who work as domestic workers, historically and currently? 

[00:04:39] Premilla Nadasen: Domestic work has always been a very diverse occupation. 

[00:04:42] Premilla Nadasen: So in the 19th century, there were a lot of white women who worked as domestic workers as well. Mostly European immigrants from Germany, from Ireland. They tended to work as domestics only when they were unmarried. So once they got married, they left the occupation. They ended up being full-time housewives. 

[00:04:59] Premilla Nadasen: But even apart from them, there were Asian American women, Latinx women, Indigenous women who all worked as domestics. But the occupation of domestic work was so closely tied to the history of slavery and the narrative of servitude and the culture of servitude.

[00:05:17] Premilla Nadasen: So it's an occupation that has historically been closely identified with African-American women. In 1950, 60% of all domestic workers were African-American. So the vast majority. 

[00:05:29] Premilla Nadasen: Um, but I also want to say that all women of color in the United States who worked as domestics, have all experienced systems of institutionalized coercion. 

[00:05:41] Premilla Nadasen: So Indigenous women were taken, young girls actually, were taken from their homes in the 19th century and the early 20th century and placed in boarding homes where they were trained as domestic workers for middle-class white families who supposedly could help them assimilate. We know that many immigrants who come to this country do so under a system of immigration that coerces them to work for an employer as a domestic worker.

[00:06:08] Taja Lindley: You might remember Allison Julien from our last episode. 

[00:06:11] Taja Lindley: She came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and worked as a domestic worker for over 25 years. She now works as the We Dream in Black Organizing Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. 

[00:06:22] Taja Lindley: When I asked her to describe who are domestic workers today, here's what she shared: 

[00:06:27] Allison Julien: So there are over 2.5 million domestic workers in the U.S.. And it's the fastest growing workforce in the coming decade. 91% of domestic workers are women. And more than half of them are women of color. About half of that are undocumented domestic workers.

[00:06:46] Allison Julien: So the median annual earnings of domestic workers is around $18,000 and that's approximately about $12 an hour, compared to almost $20 for other workers. So there is a huge comparison in the wages of what domestic workers are making in comparison to other workforces.

[00:07:05] Allison Julien: Domestic workers are three times likely to be living in poverty than any other sector of workers. They're dealing with poverty, dealing with food insecurity, dealing with housing insecurity. And there are little to no benefits, including healthcare or paid family care.

[00:07:23] Allison Julien: In the domestic worker industry, these workers are subjected to harassment and discrimination in particular because of their immigration status.

[00:07:32] Taja Lindley: What Allison shared here is really important. And I want to go on a slight tangent to highlight the class dynamics and financial precarity that domestic workers face. 

[00:07:42] Taja Lindley: Rose Gloria, a 30 something nanny who came on the podcast anonymously to protect our identity, was featured in our last episode, in part one of this series. 

[00:07:50] Taja Lindley: During our interview, she shared some of the economic challenges that nannies face today, and how nannies navigate the workforce to best support them financially and to access healthcare. Namely, choosing when and how to work on or off the books. 

[00:08:03] Rose Gloria: So on the books, meaning that, you know, you pay taxes. The entire part of your pay is taken out, just like it would be if you worked at a local gym or if you worked at a school. Typically on the books also means that you're being paid by check most of the time. 

[00:08:20] Rose Gloria: Off the books is like that you're not paying taxes, you get cash. 

[00:08:24] Rose Gloria: Most families did a combination, on the books and off the books. So half is on the books, but most of the nannies and caregivers appreciate when there's enough to show that you're working, but not enough to take you out of getting other support, like staying on Medicaid, especially if some of these jobs aren't offering health insurance.

[00:08:41] Taja Lindley: And while what Rose described may appear to be a solution to navigating low wage work and taxes, it also creates some precarious financial relationships, situations, and attitudes between domestic workers and their employers. 

[00:08:55] Rose Gloria: And it'd be a situation where, you know, the child would go to some event and everyone's getting an ice cream. Now everyone's getting a book at the bookstore and now everyone's getting this and now we're going to lunch.

[00:09:06] Rose Gloria: And now I'm at $50, $100 spending for these kids in the day. And the reimbursement doesn't come for another week because mom forgot. That happened often. Sometimes I was caught paying for full blown tennis lessons that were $500. And the tennis coach would be like, hey, I can't start this until I get paid.

[00:09:25] Rose Gloria: And I would have no option but to pay because the child's crying because they want to do tennis. And I've got to pick up the brother in the next hour and, you know, situations that could have been totally avoided.

[00:09:35] Rose Gloria: Um, if we go to a hotel and there's no food there, obviously I'm supposed to provide them food, you know, and they're not answering their cell phones or text messages. I have to figure something out. That type of dilemma is really common.

[00:09:48] Taja Lindley: These on and off the book payments can also create situations that have the potential for abuse and underpaying domestic workers. 

[00:09:55] Rose Gloria: You know, if you get hired around the holidays, negotiating is very different because one, there's Christmas bonuses, which are big, big deal. If you feel like leaving your job as a domestic worker, you don't do it near the holidays because that is when everyone's on their best behavior.

[00:10:11] Rose Gloria: Cause Christmas bonus is like, you get half of your pay for the year. Some people do, at the least, two weeks of pay for your bonus. For many people that, that means Christmas gifts for their family. That means food for their family to celebrate the holidays. 

[00:10:25] Rose Gloria: So a lot of families bank on that and they'll negotiate around the holidays differently. Cause it'll be like, well, why don't we just do $20 an hour? You can take as many breaks as you want. It's really your vacation too, um, especially if we go away somewhere, it's your vacation too. And and I give really good Christmas bonuses. 

[00:10:44] Rose Gloria: But then they'll create a schedule for you where you're literally working from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM with no break. By the time you look up to say something the vacation's over or the contract's over. 

[00:10:59] Taja Lindley: Many of these issues that Allison and Rose Gloria mentioned have been ongoing dilemmas and circumstances that domestic workers have faced in the United States. 

[00:11:07] Taja Lindley: Let's get into a brief history of domestic labor and the folks who organize this workforce. 

[00:11:12] Premilla Nadasen: Sometimes domestic work is considered or has historically been considered by historians, especially labor historians as an unorganizable occupation. As one in which people simply couldn't organize, or didn't organize, didn't have the power to, didn't have the desire to. 

[00:11:30] Premilla Nadasen: And part of the claim that I was trying to make, and I'm not the only historian to do this, others have done it as well, but is to really foreground how domestic workers have in fact been resisting and have always resisted. 

[00:11:43] Premilla Nadasen: There's two kinds of organizing the domestic workers have engaged in. One is more informal or day-to-day organizing. 

[00:11:51] Premilla Nadasen: Domestic workers would pan tote, which means that they would take things. These are people that are getting paid very little for their labor. And so they might see something in their employer's home that they think could help compensate for their low wages. That is a form of resistance. 

[00:12:08] Premilla Nadasen: Or quitting. They have dealt with enough from an employer and they'll just say enough is enough. I'm leaving. 

[00:12:14] Premilla Nadasen: Or work slowdowns where they're expected to do way more than an employer ever asked them to do. And so they might just slow down their pace of work.

[00:12:22] Premilla Nadasen: So these are acts of resistance that people sometimes engage in when they're not able to organize collectively. 

[00:12:28] Premilla Nadasen: But in addition to that, 

[00:12:29] Premilla Nadasen: there have been many instances of organized resistance. 

[00:12:34] Premilla Nadasen: One of the earliest cases that's been documented by the historian Tara Hunter who's at Princeton is the Washing Society in Atlanta, which organized in 1881.

[00:12:44] Premilla Nadasen: And these were African-American women who washed clothes for a living who would often do takeout work. That is they would collect the clothes on a Saturday and take it home and wash all the clothes and return it the following weekend. And they were paid very little for this labor. 

[00:13:00] Premilla Nadasen: But they organized in the city of Atlanta in 1881 and hugely successful at really mobilizing people, not just domestic workers, but the janitors and building service employees, a lot of the working class mobilized and supported them in the strike. And they went on strike for a period of time and managed to raise their rate. 

[00:13:21] Premilla Nadasen: So again, it's a really powerful example of how people who one might think of as being relatively powerless are able to collectively come together and wield that power.

[00:13:30] Premilla Nadasen: Then in the 1930s, there was organizing as well across the country by domestic workers. This was in the midst of the Great Depression, but one of the most well-known cases is a woman, African American woman in New York whose name is Dora Jones. And she formed a group called the Domestic Workers Union.

[00:13:47] Premilla Nadasen: And it had a base both in Harlem and in Sunnyside Queens. They eventually had about a thousand members, women of African descent and women of Finnish descent from Finland. And they formed a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union. 

[00:14:04] Premilla Nadasen: And then the period I write about um, in the 1960s, there's organizing that's happening all across the country in um, New York, in San Francisco, in Detroit, in Cleveland, in Atlanta. Many of these domestic workers start organizing in their communities with other women they know. They organize in public places. 

[00:14:26] Premilla Nadasen: At the same time, there are middle-class women who are organizing to reform the occupation. So Edith Barksdale Sloan is an African-American woman who heads an organization called The National Committee on Household Employment.

[00:14:38] Premilla Nadasen: She's not a domestic worker herself, but she hires a domestic worker, Josephine Hulett, who is from Youngstown, Ohio. And she asks Hulett to be a field organizer. This is in 1971 after people are organizing on the local level. And Hulett travels around the country to meet all these workers who are organizing and they bring them together into a national organization, the Household Technicians of America.

[00:15:04] Premilla Nadasen: And this is such an important organization because it is the first time that there is a national domestic workers organization in this country where local chapters from around the country, local groups around the country, are able to connect in some kind of national formation and speak in a national collective voice.

[00:15:23] Premilla Nadasen: So I think it's a really critical turning point in the history of organizing. And they have by 1972, about 25,000 members.

[00:15:30] Taja Lindley: So now we know a bit about who is organizing as well as where and why they're organizing. 

[00:15:36] Taja Lindley: But how do domestic workers organize in a labor market that was once considered a quote unquote "unorganizable workforce?"

[00:15:43] Premilla Nadasen: Usually when we think about especially labor organizing, but any kind of organizing, right, that happens in collective workplaces. So the models of labor organizing are people are talking to one another on an assembly line or in the break rooms, or as they're going into work in the morning. 

[00:16:01] Premilla Nadasen: But domestic workers are a dispersed workforce. So they couldn't do that. They didn't have an assembly line. They were working in most cases as single employees in an isolated household behind closed doors. And nobody might've even known that they worked there. So it, it has been an occupation historically that has been hard to organize.

[00:16:23] Premilla Nadasen: But they were able to do so nonetheless. And they did so by turning to public spaces for organizing. So they organized in buses, that is city buses. They organized in playgrounds. They organized in supermarkets. 

[00:16:39] Premilla Nadasen: One of the workers I write about Carolyn Reed who organized in the 1970s in New York she would go into the gourmet shops where she shopped for her employers and saw other domestic workers. She would organize at the laundry rooms. Um, she has a wonderful quote where she's talking about the history of the occupation and she says, "household workers have not been selling their services. They've been selling their souls." 

[00:17:01] Premilla Nadasen: Dorothy Bolden who lived in Atlanta, she actually began domestic work when she was nine years old. Um, and she lived in Vine City, the same area where Martin Luther King lived, and she knew King. King is actually one of the people who encouraged her to organize domestic workers. 

[00:17:18] Premilla Nadasen: And Bolden used the bus system to organize. And so she rode the city buses, she traveled from one end of the city to the other. She handed out leaflets, she talked to women about the occupation, encouraged them to join her organization and you know, try to empower them to make a change. 

[00:17:35] Premilla Nadasen: There was a transfer point. So Atlanta is a segregated city. And so African-American women would board the buses in the Black neighborhoods and go downtown where they'd transfer to the buses that would take them to the white neighborhoods where they worked. Julian Bond uh, referred to this transfer point as a meeting ground. And so that Dorothy Bolden was at the center of it. So that kind of became her hub of organizing. 

[00:17:58] Premilla Nadasen: And so I think this shift from sort of private spaces of organizing to public spaces of organizing was really critical in terms of how domestic workers could mobilize other women.

[00:18:09] Taja Lindley: Community organizing begins with recruitment: reaching out to people who have shared experiences and or identities. 

[00:18:16] Taja Lindley: Next comes political education: providing opportunities for the folks who were recruited to situate their individual experiences into a bigger picture, identifying how power operates in the systems and structures that created cause for their gathering. 

[00:18:30] Premilla Nadasen: Once people were recruited, they were able to get together in these other meeting spaces.

[00:18:36] Premilla Nadasen: And those became the real sites of political education where people could talk about what their long-term experiences had been, what their goals for the future were, what kinds of strategies they would implement.

[00:18:48] Premilla Nadasen: So they had national gatherings once the Household Technicians of America, the HTA, was formed and they were able to come together with other women around the country to begin to talk about bigger political strategy and how their local organizing would connect to that bigger political strategy.

[00:19:06] Taja Lindley: These political and organizing strategies were informed by practices of storytelling.

[00:19:11] Premilla Nadasen: The idea that domestic workers were a constituency or a unified group wasn't necessarily a given. So they had to work to build that sense of community. Learning about and getting to know other domestic workers was absolutely critical to the success of this movement. 

[00:19:28] Premilla Nadasen: One of the ways that that happened was to begin to share stories. 

[00:19:32] Premilla Nadasen: Edith Barksdale Sloan, who was the head of the National Committee on Housing and Employment, Josephine Hulett, Carolyn Reed, all the women I talked about. When they began to talk about their experience as domestic workers, how difficult it was to take care of their children, something their employers did to them. Other domestic workers would begin to identify with them, would understand that and would say, oh yes, I had a similar experience as well with my employer. 

[00:19:56] Premilla Nadasen: And so that was the beginnings of building a community, which lays the foundation for building a movement. So those stories that they told really served as a recruitment tool. It relied a lot on their personal experiences, but it also relied on history.

[00:20:13] Premilla Nadasen: But one of the stories about uh, storytelling that most resonated with me was uh, about Geraldine Miller. She moved to New York from Kansas in the 1950s. And when she was living in New York City, she heard about these things called slave markets. 

[00:20:30] Premilla Nadasen: And slave markets existed in the 1930s and they were street corners where African-American women would wait to be hired as day laborers, as domestic workers in the homes of white families. These women were exploited, were mistreated, were underpaid. Two African-American women journalists, Ella Baker and Marble Cook, wrote about them and about the underpayment and about sometimes how they wouldn't get paid at all. 

[00:20:53] Premilla Nadasen: And so Miller heard about these slave markets. She didn't experience them herself, but she heard about them. And what she heard is that employers in the 1930s would look for women with the most scarred knees because women with the most scarred knees were the ones who would scrub the floor on their hands and knees.

[00:21:11] Premilla Nadasen: And Miller would tell the story to other domestic workers in the 1960s and 70s, partly as a way to tell them we should never, ever have to scrub the floor on our hands and knees. So her telling of the story was both about creating community and creating identity and building a movement. But it was also about establishing a standard by telling other workers that we need to draw a line somewhere. And this is one place that we can draw the line.

[00:21:38] Taja Lindley: Domestic workers employed these strategies to organize for dignified labor conditions. 

[00:21:42] Taja Lindley: They did this through shifting the narrative about what domestic labor is and shifting laws that excluded domestic workers from labor protections. 

[00:21:50] Taja Lindley: Here are some of the demands and goals of domestic workers who organized in the sixties and seventies.

[00:21:55] Premilla Nadasen: One of the key campaigns was for labor protections. So domestic workers like other, especially agricultural workers, were excluded from key provisions of labor protections that were passed in the 1930s. For example, the Fair Labor Standard Act, the Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act.

[00:22:18] Premilla Nadasen: So the National Labor Relations Act gave workers the right to organize and bargain collectively. The Social Security Act, of course, gave people social security. And domestic workers by the 1970s were included in the Social Security Act because it was a change that was made in 1950. 

[00:22:32] Premilla Nadasen: But they were still excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which meant that they were not guaranteed minimum wage or overtime pay. 

[00:22:39] Premilla Nadasen: Domestic work was a very low paid occupation and people simply needed more money to live on. So inclusion of domestic workers into the Fair Labor Standards Act became a focal point of organizing for domestic workers in the sixties and seventies. 

[00:22:55] Premilla Nadasen: So, so these were the kind of immediate demands and outcomes, but I think that more broadly, they were really working for dignity and respect. They wanted to really transform the occupation of domestic work and move it away from this culture of servitude, from the way in which the mammy stereotype dominated the occupation.

[00:23:17] Premilla Nadasen: And they wanted employers to see them as professional workers. In fact, they didn't call themselves domestic workers. They called themselves household technicians. And that renaming was really important because they didn't want to be at the beck and call of their employers. They didn't want to be called by their first names.

[00:23:35] Premilla Nadasen: And employers would often to call their workers "girl" or make up some name for them that they had no connection to. And so they wanted to be seen and respected as workers who deserved the same rights and respect as all other workers. 

[00:23:50] Premilla Nadasen: So people wanted clearly defined work requirements and clearly defined breaks and benefits. So one of the things they fought for was a contractual relationship. So when they were hired that a contract would be drawn up, that would specify what their rights and responsibilities were. 

[00:24:09] Taja Lindley: Domestic workers were excluded from both legislated labor protections and labor unions that were organizing for fair labor practices... except for domestic workers. 

[00:24:19] Premilla Nadasen: There's been a long history of exclusion of domestic work from labor unions. And most labor unions, even in the 1960s, simply did not want to organize domestic workers.

[00:24:30] Premilla Nadasen: They were not supportive. And this was a time when there is an upsurge of labor organizing. They're organizing nurses and they're organizing teachers. You know, lots of service sector workers in the 1960s are beginning to come together. 

[00:24:41] Premilla Nadasen: But labor unions don't provide support for domestic workers and they know about what's happening. Domestic workers reach out to them, but they're just not interested. 

[00:24:50] Premilla Nadasen: So there's been a history of marginalization, a history of exclusion. And I think, you know, in some ways that created an opportunity for workers to form their own movement, and to define their own struggle.

[00:25:02] Premilla Nadasen: So in some ways I think it was actually a good thing.

[00:25:05] Premilla Nadasen: Um, domestic workers were more along that model of social movement unionism, which is a term that has developed more recently since the 1990s about how workers can organize more as a movement than as a union membership organization. 

[00:25:20] Premilla Nadasen: So they used all kinds of mobilization strategies as opposed to just you pay your dues and then we bargain on your behalf with your employer. So it was about building solidarity, about building community about grassroots struggle more so than just bargaining with an employer.

[00:25:37] Taja Lindley: It's both ironic and deeply enraging that domestic workers were marginalized in a movement that had clear shared interests. Though, perhaps different strategies for reaching their goals. 

[00:25:48] Taja Lindley: And labor organizing wasn't the only movement space that had some tensions with domestic worker organizing. 

[00:25:54] Taja Lindley: The women's movement and feminism movement could have been better allies to support domestic workers especially since so many domestic workers were women. But rather than finding shared struggle and collective power based on issues of gender, middle-class white women found themselves at odds with the goals of domestic worker organizing. 

[00:26:12] Premilla Nadasen: The women's movement had a profound impact on domestic work and on domestic worker organizing. For mostly middle-class white women who organized in the sixties, feminism or liberation was defined as getting a job outside the home. Was leaving the home and taking employment. And so a critical question for them was, okay, who's going to do the house work? 

[00:26:38] Premilla Nadasen: And so these middle-class women turned to hire domestic workers to fill in that household gap, to bring in people, to hire poorer women, women of color, to do the work in the household that they were not able to do since they were taking jobs outside the home.

[00:26:53] Premilla Nadasen: And so there's a direct correlation, I argue, between the quote unquote liberation of white middle-class women and the growing exploitation of women of color. Especially in the 1980s and the 1990s. Even though in the 1970s, there were a lot of declarations or predictions that domestic work was on the decline. And then there would be an ultimate demise of the occupation.

[00:27:18] Premilla Nadasen: That is actually not what happened. You see after the 1970s an expansion in the number of domestic workers who are, who are hired and that's because of more and more middle class women who are entering the workforce. 

[00:27:31] Taja Lindley: This too is ironic and deeply enraging. That the concept of liberation for white women required the servitude of Black women and other women of color. 

[00:27:41] Taja Lindley: And the notion that women's liberation would be achieved with entering the workforce, with labor, totally erased the historical and current experiences of Black women's labor in the United States. 

[00:27:52] Taja Lindley: You'll remember from our first episode this season, Jennifer Morgan discussed how African women were gendered as laborers. And this gendering was part of the justification of slavery. 

[00:28:01] Taja Lindley: So while white middle-class women were yearning to work, we can't say the same for Black women who had been forced into slavery and coerced into low wage jobs. 

[00:28:11] Taja Lindley: It's no accident that many white feminists in the sixties and seventies had this cognitive dissonance. 

[00:28:17] Premilla Nadasen: So domestic work was integrally tied to the production of white supremacy and racialized hierarchy in the United States. And for domestic workers, I think, especially in the 1960s, modern day racism for them was symbolized not by the segregated lunch counter, but by the figure of the mammy. 

[00:28:34] Premilla Nadasen: So it was those daily acts of having to enter through the back door, the requirement to wear a uniform or to serve of at the beck and call of their employer, that for them manifested as racism.

[00:28:45] Taja Lindley: And while employers were group of folks that domestic workers struggled to hold accountable, there were some employers who participated in this social movement with a wide range of intentions. 

[00:28:55] Premilla Nadasen: I think there's a difference between employers wanting improvement in the occupation and employers supporting domestic workers in organizing. Because there were many employers who advocated improvement in the occupation. And the reason they advocated improvement in the occupation is because they wanted better workers. They wanted a more stable supply of workers. It was really about self-interest.

[00:29:20] Premilla Nadasen: And then there are employers who do in fact support worker organizing and who I think are deeply committed to it, perhaps for the right reasons. And so this movement in the 1970s did have employers who were standing by, standing next to, and advocating on behalf of domestic workers.

[00:29:38] Premilla Nadasen: And I think had it not been for the assistance of some of those employers it would have been much harder for domestic workers to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act amendment that did eventually give them minimum wage.

[00:29:56] Taja Lindley: There is so much more to the history of domestic worker organizing. I encourage you to read Premilla's book as well as join my Patreon to hear the rest of our interview. 

[00:30:05] Taja Lindley: Now let's get into present day organizing.

[00:30:07] Taja Lindley: Allison's story of how she came to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is a beautiful example of how community organizing supports both the individual and the industry. 

[00:30:17] Allison Julien: I got involved in domestic worker organizing April of 2002. I was working on the Upper West side of Manhattan uh, providing care for a young girl at the time. And in the park I was outreached to uh, by Ai-jen Poo, who is now the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

[00:30:38] Allison Julien: When I learned that there was a body of domestic workers organizing, I knew nothing of the concept of organizing and what that meant, but I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

[00:30:52] Taja Lindley: The organization that Allison joined in 2002 was Domestic Workers United based in New York. 

[00:30:57] Taja Lindley: Allison was at a national gathering in 2007 that formed the National Domestic Workers Alliance with a group of approximately 50 domestic workers from 13 organizations around the country. 

[00:31:08] Allison Julien: And in 2015, I was awarded the Dorothy Bolden Fellowship out of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. I was speechless because I felt at this point in my life, I was doing the two things that I enjoyed. I was volunteering full-time as a domestic worker and I was working full-time as a domestic worker.

[00:31:30] Allison Julien: And I felt like I was doing the two things that mattered most to me because I could take the advocacy that I was learning in the streets back into my workplace to educate my employers. 

[00:31:41] Allison Julien: So when I was awarded the fellowship, I then had to make a decision on one, what does having a fellowship mean? And then two, what does this mean for my career as a domestic worker? I remember like building up the courage to go to my employers to say to them, like hey, look, you know, I'm done. And it was hard because I had, at this point, been working with this family for five years.

[00:32:05] Allison Julien: I had helped them raised two of their kids, the kids, and I had a great relationship. They challenged me every single day. And I was like, okay, I am ready to pivot into something new. So I joined NDWA in January of 2016 as a Dorothy Bolden fellow, one of the two Dorothy Bolden fellows. 

[00:32:27] Allison Julien: If someone had ever told me that this was the way that my life was going to change, and I was going to be a part of making history and be a newer version of Dorothy Bolden and the visions that Dorothy Bolden had for domestic workers, I would never have envisioned that. 

[00:32:46] Allison Julien: After my fellowship ended, I became the lead organizer for We Dream in Black to bring Black domestic workers from across the diaspora together.

[00:32:54] Allison Julien: I went on two years later to become the New York Co-Director. And most recently, I am now the We Dream in Black Organizing Director, really holding space for our We Dream in Black chapters across the country in North Carolina, Georgia, Philadelphia, and New York City. 

[00:33:15] Taja Lindley: This work with Black domestic workers specifically is part of how Allison and NDWA is acknowledging and addressing the legacy of slavery that shows up in domestic work. 

[00:33:25] Allison Julien: I feel like a lot of the work that I have done as a domestic worker and that other domestic workers do is really honoring that legacy of slavery. And a part of the work we do is really paying homage to these ancestors. And as far as we have come from slavery is the way that many people still see domestic workers today, is that the work that they do is very similar to the work that our ancestors or the work that slaves did. 

[00:33:53] Allison Julien: Oftentimes employers, I believe, feel that they can get away with treating domestic workers like less than because they're "the help" or they're just here to care for my kids. But domestic work is real work. And should be treated with dignity and respect regardless to what language they speak, regardless to their immigration status, regardless to their class or their race or their gender or their sex. 

[00:34:24] Taja Lindley: So what is the National Domestic Workers Alliance up to? 

[00:34:27] Allison Julien: The National Domestic Workers Alliance is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. The majority of whom are immigrant women of color. 

[00:34:40] Allison Julien: NDWA works for respect, recognition, inclusion, and labor protections for domestic workers.

[00:34:47] Allison Julien: And today we have about 75 affiliate organizations that make up the body of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in around 20 states where there are nannies, house cleaners and care providers that make up the body of domestic workers.

[00:35:05] Allison Julien: So since 2010 uh, we've been able to win bill of rights uh, starting out with New York. We've gone on to win in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico and Virginia, not to forget in Seattle and Philadelphia.

[00:35:25] Taja Lindley: In our last episode you heard from an employer: Nikki Brown-Booker, a woman of color with a disability who hires domestic workers to support her day-to-day activities. 

[00:35:34] Taja Lindley: Nikki participated in the organizing efforts in California. 

[00:35:37] Nikki Brown-Booker: I heard about this organization called the Hand in Hand, the Domestic Employers Network. And that there was a newly formed group of employers that really wanted to make a difference in this market, in this labor market.

[00:35:50] Nikki Brown-Booker: So we started getting together and talking about the frustrations and the challenges and tensions, and we decided, you know, we need to start organizing. 

[00:36:01] Nikki Brown-Booker: I'm in California. I worked on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights here in California. It was a hard fought battle. The bill had to go through three legislative cycles before it was finally passed. When it was passed, we did get overtime pay for domestic workers. So that was kinda locally in California. 

[00:36:20] Nikki Brown-Booker: And I really started realizing that this is something that's a national problem. So with Hand in Hand and the National- the National Domestic Workers Alliance, we really started putting some pressure on federal legislative bodies and were able to get their Fair Labor Standards Act to actually adopt some overtime and change the rules around domestic workers. 

[00:36:43] Taja Lindley: These bill of rights are a set of laws to ensure that domestic workers have fair and dignified places and experiences of work. 

[00:36:51] Allison Julien: We oftentimes say the domestic work industry is like the wild, wild west where employers literally get to determine the working conditions. They're the judge and the jury, and that's the end.

[00:37:03] Allison Julien: Uh, but these domestic worker bill of rights really gives protection for the domestic workers, and it also provides guidelines for employers so they understand what their responsibilities are as domestic employers. And some of these laws across the country vary in terms of the protection for overtime, making sure that domestic workers are paid overtime after 40 hours. 

[00:37:29] Allison Julien: Some states may have time off for pregnancy, so that the domestic worker who is having a child can have that time home to care for their child. Rightfully so. There's also protection with time off for rest or vacation time or sick time that's included. 

[00:37:47] Allison Julien: It's important to know that without these protections that we've seen within the industry that employers really decide for themselves what they want, how many days they're giving off, how many days they're giving for vacation, if there's pregnancy time. Yes or no. 

[00:38:04] Allison Julien: Another important thing that I want to note is the domestic worker bill of rights across the country includes domestic workers who are undocumented. Oftentimes we have the question about documentation. Well if the domestic workers are undocumented, they shouldn't be working. We can definitely get into that immigration piece as a whole other segment.

[00:38:24] Allison Julien: But if they are doing the work, they do deserve the protections regardless if they're documented or not. Undocumented workers need these protections in place so that their rights are not violated because they do have human rights and they should be treated, all domestic workers should be treated with dignity and respect. 

[00:38:44] Allison Julien: I think of myself when I started doing domestic work, I didn't have these protections. And when I was able to fight for as a part of the New York Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, fight for and win these protections with domestic workers, I felt like that was the time where I could say my work shifted. 

[00:39:04] Allison Julien: That was when I felt like I had, I had super powers because now I had protection. As a domestic worker, I felt like my work now finally mattered.

[00:39:16] Allison Julien: These antiquated labor laws need to be changed.

[00:39:20] Allison Julien: Domestic workers are real workers and their work should be valued and respected and treated with the same level of care as every other profession there is across this country.

[00:39:33] Taja Lindley: In addition to organizing around state and federal labor laws, NDWA is also shifting the culture and narrative around care work. Like the domestic workers and organizations that Premilla mentioned earlier, NDWA is professionalizing the industry so domestic labor is taken just as seriously as any other occupation.

[00:39:51] Allison Julien: As I got involved in domestic worker organizing, we were really using the term domestic worker and really lifting up the value of a domestic worker and who a domestic worker was. 

[00:40:04] Allison Julien: So we named domestic workers as nannies, care providers to the elderly and disabled, and house cleaners. 

[00:40:10] Allison Julien: And I felt when I walked into work and I said to an employer, " I am a professional nanny," they treated me with a different sense of respect than they did when I said I was a babysitter. And as I learned that the shift in the way that I presented myself as a professional care provider was really important to the way that employers saw me and the way that they valued the work that I brought in.

[00:40:36] Allison Julien: This is the way that we communicate that with domestic workers in our community. We professionalize this industry. It's a, it's a very important industry. 

[00:40:45] Allison Julien: I oftentimes say domestic workers are the most brilliant set of individuals you would ever meet.

[00:40:52] Allison Julien: Because what a lot of us tend to forget is before domestic workers migrate to the U.S. to work as domestic workers, they were professionals in their home countries.

[00:41:01] Allison Julien: Many of them are formally trained. They have trainings in early childhood education. They're trained in child psychology. They're CPR and first aid certified. They're trained as a house cleaners or home health aides. 

[00:41:16] Allison Julien: And what they bring into the work beyond the heart and beyond the care, many of them bring a second or a third language. Many of them bring the culture through the foods that they are able to cook for the kids. Many of them bring song and dance from their backgrounds.

[00:41:34] Allison Julien: And a part of our organizing is really to ensure that not only do domestic workers see themselves as professionals, but society as a whole and employers as a whole see them in that way. 

[00:41:46] Taja Lindley: And while many domestic workers bring additional skillsets with them to their work, professionalization of the industry means also making distinctions between services. 

[00:41:55] Taja Lindley: When those distinctions are not clear, it can create what Allison calls the "nanny and" problem. 

[00:42:01] Allison Julien: Many domestic workers start out in one profession. We go in, let's say, as the nanny and within a year or two years, we become the nanny and. The nanny and everything else.

[00:42:12] Allison Julien: The dog walker, the elder care provider, the house cleaner, the laundry washer. 

[00:42:17] Allison Julien: It's an unfair disadvantage for many domestic workers, because many of them feel they have to do the work in order to keep the job. And if, and this is for employers who are listening, if you hire a nanny, respect that they are nannies. They're not nannies and. 

[00:42:34] Allison Julien: Unless you're willing to compensate for the additional service you're asking for, respect that caring for a child is, it takes a lot of patience, takes a lot of time, takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of skill. And definitely takes a lot of heart. So you can't be providing care for a child and cleaning the windows at the same time.

[00:42:56] Allison Julien: And I think those distinctions within the industry need to be super clear. And it's something one, that employers need to think about when they're in the hiring process, who do I really need in my house? Is it a nanny? Is it a housecleaner? Is it an elder care provider? And for nannies or professional domestic workers, they also need to be clear about their role.

[00:43:16] Allison Julien: What is my role as a domestic worker? Am I the nanny and the house cleaner? Or am I the nanny Monday through Friday. I could be your house cleaner. That's going to be a separate cost on a separate day. So these lines of communication need to be extremely clear in the relationship between employers and employees.

[00:43:36] Taja Lindley: Rose Gloria shared a lot in the last episode about being the nanny and. Sometimes it was her choice. Sometimes it was the agency that lied about the gig. And sometimes the families that employed her overstepped her boundaries. 

[00:43:49] Taja Lindley: She talks more in our two and a half hour interview on Patreon about other instances of this that we did not have space to include in this series. 

[00:43:56] Taja Lindley: But what I want to get to here is why does this happen? Why are domestic workers expected to do more labor than they were hired to take on? 

[00:44:05] Allison Julien: When we think of gender work and the roles that gender play in our society, women's work in the home, it's undervalued, it's unpaid, right? The mother of two kids taking care of the house or the partner, cleaning and cooking. Oftentimes there's no pay for that.

[00:44:24] Allison Julien: It's the expectation that women across the globe are supposed to maintain the homes. And when we think of that narrative in the domestic worker workplace, it almost feels like it has that same expectation. Employers feel like the women who are doing domestic work is supposed to do this labor for free.

[00:44:43] Allison Julien: And no. This is paid work. It is labor. They should be compensated fairly.

[00:44:49] Taja Lindley: In addition to gendered notions of what labor is and how it's valued, Premilla also situates the devaluation of domestic labor within a broader understanding of how we collectively define and view paid labor in the economy. 

[00:45:03] Premilla Nadasen: Labor is often associated with working in a factory, producing a good, you know, making something, creating something and household labor and care work has often been considered outside of that.

[00:45:17] Premilla Nadasen: It's not considered productive labor in quite the same way. 

[00:45:20] Premilla Nadasen: People sometimes think about household labor or the work of domestic labor as kind of unnecessary, like we could live without it. Right. It doesn't really matter that much.

[00:45:30] Premilla Nadasen: And we know from the pandemic how important it is, right. And how so many things shut down, people couldn't go to work when they didn't have childcare. 

[00:45:38] Premilla Nadasen: But Carolyn Reed said in the 1970s about the power that- she was talking about labor organizing and the power that domestic workers had. And she said, they have a tremendous amount of power because quote, "the houses could not run. You could never know how helpless people can be, especially wealthy people until you've worked in their homes. Just one day of true hardship or true inconvenience, and they'd want a bargain." 

[00:46:02] Taja Lindley: This makes me think of the refrain that NDWA says often - that domestic labor makes all other work possible. And even though care work is important, it's often not valued or compensated accordingly. 

[00:46:15] Taja Lindley: And speaking of the pandemic, NDWA had to shift its activities and organizing practices when COVID hit. In a time when we were being encouraged to socially distance from one another, it put the domestic labor workforce in a precarious situation. 

[00:46:28] Allison Julien: So right before we heard of the coronavirus in the U.S., the National Domestic Workers Alliance had just had our national gathering of over a thousand domestic workers. It was our biggest gathering of domestic workers across the country. 

[00:46:44] Allison Julien: And then we got to March and we learned of the pandemic. And we knew very early on that domestic workers were going to be significantly impacted by the pandemic. 

[00:46:55] Allison Julien: Domestic work is not work that's outsourced. It's not work that can be done from home.

[00:47:00] Allison Julien: After that two week time period passed and we got into April, domestic workers were recognizing well, they were sent home, which meant they were not being paid for the time home. Many of them became unemployed and rent is due.

[00:47:17] Allison Julien: We saw a huge percentage of our workers feeling like it was really the end. They didn't know what to do. There was no income coming in. The conversation about poverty really kicked in quickly. And very early, workers were feeling the stress of the inability to pay rent. Maybe they made April rent, but May and June came around and that became so hard for so many domestic workers.

[00:47:50] Allison Julien: What we also saw were many employers were migrating across the country or out of the country, even. So these jobs though are permanently lost and workers had no place to go. Many of them do not collect unemployment. So unemployment was not an option. The stimulus package was not an option for many domestic workers.

[00:48:14] Allison Julien: Most of them already weren't receiving paid time off. 

[00:48:17] Allison Julien: And a part of what we've done as the National Domestic Workers Alliance we had what we called our Coronavirus Care Fund, where there were donations that were made by the community, by foundations, and distributed over $30 million that was raised in cash assistance for domestic workers. Those funds were lifesavers for many domestic workers. 

[00:48:43] Allison Julien: And we were also able to provide PPE for many domestic workers who were going into work and didn't have access to PPE because many employers were not providing PPE. As an organization, we're glad that we were able to provide some level of relief for domestic workers across the country.

[00:49:04] Allison Julien: And in our organizing work, we shifted from our in-person meetings or our in-person events to doing everything virtually. It's been a challenge. It's been exciting and it's been a challenge because now we're teaching workers how to use Zoom. 

[00:49:19] Allison Julien: First, we had to teach them what Zoom was and then what it is and how to access it and how to use the mute and the camera on button.

[00:49:29] Allison Julien: It is so, so refreshing to see that our workers have caught up. Many of them have learned how we could be a part of community with each other in this virtual way. Being in this community has really shown us where our power is, right? Like we're able to reach more workers. 

[00:49:50] Allison Julien: And it comes with its challenges because not everyone has access to a smart phone. Not everyone can download zoom and knows how to use it. And that's a part of our community we're still figuring out: how do we stay in contact? And I'm so glad that telephones didn't become extinct because we could still call the workers who may have challenges with technology to be a communication with them.

[00:50:15] Taja Lindley: In our last episode, Rose Gloria shared a very wild story about navigating work during the pandemic. I encourage you to listen to her full story on Patreon to hear other ways that this pandemic, namely the vaccine mandates, has impacted her health and her work. 

[00:50:31] Taja Lindley: You also heard from Adela Seally. A professional nanny from St. Lucia living in New York, mother of seven children, and a member of NDWA. She too experienced some shifts in her work over the last couple of years due to COVID.

[00:50:43] Adela Sealy: When the City shut down, my employers lived in the hot zone in New York. There was like this zone that nobody was allowed to enter or um, leave. And my, one of my employers, two weeks into discovering COVID she lost her um, her form of employment. 

[00:51:02] Adela Sealy: And I remember asking her, does that mean I won't be able to work with you anymore? And she said, no, we're going to keep you as long as we can afford. So that was a relief when she said that, because I knew there were so many nannies that were just losing their jobs, their work family just got up and left and they had no recourse.

[00:51:20] Adela Sealy: They didn't know where they would get their next paycheck or anything like that. So when she said that I was relieved. And then the City shut down. Public transportation was really limited. And she asked me to live with them. So become a live-in. I was like I'll think about it.

[00:51:36] Adela Sealy: And she said, oh, but, Maalik can come with you because then they was doing school remotely. When she said that, I was like, okay, then I, I would do it. I was living with extended family at the time. So I figured then Maalik is the last one, the youngest one. I was comfortable enough to go do live in with Maalik. 

[00:51:54] Adela Sealy: So that's what we did. She would pick me up on a Monday morning and drop me off on a Friday afternoon. So for like maybe six months I was doing live-in.

[00:52:04] Adela Sealy: I had to make sure I call my older kids to get up and sign on for school, because then nobody's in a rush to get up because we're not leaving the house. 

[00:52:20] Taja Lindley: Language - the words we choose to use when talking about domestic labor - is important for folks who do the work, as well as the folks who organize the laborers. 

[00:52:29] Taja Lindley: We discussed earlier how professionalization of the domestic labor workforce is often found in word choice, like referring to people as nannies instead of babysitters. 

[00:52:39] Taja Lindley: There's also some conversation and concern about referring to this work as care work. 

[00:52:43] Premilla Nadasen: I'm actually currently working on a book about care and care work and how we understand care work and how we talk about care work. 

[00:52:52] Premilla Nadasen: And one of the things I learned from my writing about domestic workers is that they often didn't refer to this labor as care work.

[00:52:59] Premilla Nadasen: They talked about it in terms of domestic work or household technician work. And I think that the language of care that is so prevalent today imposes a kind of emotional demand on workers that is unjust. And characterizes people as carers, as opposed to workers and elides the question of rights and the question of pay and the question of working conditions.

[00:53:23] Premilla Nadasen: And so the domestic workers in the sixties and seventies didn't talk about their jobs as care. They didn't see themselves as caring for people. They saw themselves as workers. 

[00:53:32] Premilla Nadasen: And so I think we can go back and we can think about the importance of how, how we want to consider workers vis-a-vis their employment relationship and not just their care relationship.

[00:53:44] Taja Lindley: This emotional demand of care work showed up for Rose Gloria when she took care of her employer's children. 

[00:53:49] Rose Gloria: Personal space is really not a thing with this job. It's very difficult to maintain. You really have to place a lot of boundaries in. And a lot of the families I noticed you'll get hired more frequently and you'll get more... you're more appreciated and valued when you give up your personal space.

[00:54:06] Rose Gloria: I never got really good at setting boundaries around personal space because I always felt so much for the children. Especially when you have children that are deprived of that type of nurturing. And I, I felt so much for them wanting that connection and wanting a hug, wanting to be able to lay and cuddle up while watching a movie that's so important. And I've worked with so many children that really didn't get that from their parents.

[00:54:33] Taja Lindley: And when her employer saw this connection Rose had with their children, it caused some tension and created some awkward situations. 

[00:54:40] Rose Gloria: Sometimes the kids would ask questions about me and they would say, oh, you know, do you have any sisters or brothers or, and I would talk about how I was the oldest in my family. And oftentimes the mom would chime in and say something like, well, so am I, you know, those moments. Or if a child called me mommy by accident, which happened a lot, or if a child wanted me to do bath time versus mommy, then it was a big competition.

[00:55:07] Rose Gloria: So there was this nature of like this competitive, but then like disconnect because sometimes the mom wouldn't even want to take, you know, give the child a bath because they needed to go to work or wanted to go do something else. But because she was supposed to, that was supposed to be her job and she didn't, then it became a fight.

[00:55:27] Rose Gloria: So it was like this like conflict that was conjured all the time, but not real conflict. Cause she didn't even want to be present that way. Um, but she knew she was supposed to be present and I was in the way. 

[00:55:43] Taja Lindley: Wow. We have covered so much ground in these two episodes. I feel like our guests shared so much insight and raised many questions for us to sit with. So I don't have too much else to say, except that I want to leave you with these words from Adela. 

[00:56:01] Adela Sealy: As nannies and home caregivers and house cleaners, we are often not given the respect that we deserve because our job is not seen as a profession. Although it is a job that entails caring for your most treasured belongings, being your children, your homes, or your parents. 

[00:56:18] Adela Sealy: We deserve being paid a living wage so that we can take care of our families, sending our children to enrichment classes or grade schools.

[00:56:27] Adela Sealy: So we don't have to choose between food and medication and we can afford to provide a home for our family, where we feel comfortable and safe. Domestic workers deserve to be treated as any other profession. Our work is the silk thread that holds all other work together. Domestic workers make all other work possible.

[00:56:48] Taja Lindley: I give thanks for your time, attention, and listenership. 

[00:56:52] Taja Lindley: If you're enjoying your experience, tell a friend. And leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts or on our website. 

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[00:57:12] Taja Lindley: And support this work y'all at, where you will be able to access exclusive content and full length interviews with each of our guests, including everyone you heard from in this episode. 

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[00:57:32] Taja Lindley: This podcast is created and hosted by yours truly, Taja Lindley, also known as the HBIC. 

[00:57:39] Taja Lindley: Audio engineering by Lilah Larson. 

[00:57:41] Taja Lindley: Music by Emma Alabaster, who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer. 

[00:57:46] Taja Lindley: Additional music production by Chip Belton. 

[00:57:48] Taja Lindley: Vocals by Patience Sings. 

[00:57:51] Taja Lindley: Mixing and mastering by Chip Belton. 

[00:57:53] Taja Lindley: Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster. 

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[00:57:59] Taja Lindley: This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustle and supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. 

Premilla NadasenProfile Photo

Premilla Nadasen

Professor, Author

Premilla Nadasen is a Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is most interested in the liberatory visions and activism of poor and working-class women of color. She has been involved in social justice organizing for many decades and has published extensively on the multiple meanings of feminism, alternative labor movements, and grass-roots community organizing.

She is the author of two award-winning books "Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States" and "Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement" and is currently writing a biography of South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba.

Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on
Interview length: 01:05:28

Rose Gloria*


Rose Gloria* is nanny who has worked with over 50 families in the last 15 years. Her identity and voice have been changed to protect her identity.

Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on
Interview length: 02:26:08

Adela SeallyProfile Photo

Adela Seally

Professional Nanny, Mother, Member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Adela Seally is a professional nanny and childcare specialist, and a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance - New York We Dream in Black Chapter. Before immigrating to the US, Adela worked as a preschool teacher, and she has since continued to build up her profession in childcare. With almost a decade in childcare experience, Adela is also a certified peer trainer in Effective Communication and Nutrition through the We Rise Program at Cornell University. In addition to her rich training background, Adela credits the love of children that she has learned as a proud mother of seven, for giving her a wealth of child caring knowledge and capacity. Her secret to having a good day is to “dance the stress away” to some beautiful music.

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Interview length: 00:59:38

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Allison Julien

We Dream in Black Organizing Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Allison Julien migrated to New York City from Barbados in 1991 and has worked as a professional nanny for over 25 years before joining the staff of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in 2016.

For over a decade Allison organized domestic workers in New York City, she was a key leader in the six-and-a-half-year campaign for the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which resulted in a successful, historic passage in November 2010. Through this campaign, she learned the ropes of grassroots legislative lobbying in Albany, NY, and the value of coalition building and solidarity.

Since the bill’s passage Allison has supported thousands of domestic workers to learn about their rights, recover stolen wages and develop the skills needed for effectively enforcing their rights and negotiating better work standards that go above and beyond the law. Through her organizing, in August 2021 domestic workers were included in NY City Human Rights Law.

Allison was part of the founding of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, GA in 2007. In 2015, Allison was awarded NDWA’s Dorothy Bolden Fellowship. Currently, she is the NDWA We Dream in Black Organizing Director. We Dream in Black is a national initiative of NDWA and centers the leadership, voice, and power of black domestic workers across the country.

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Interview length: 01:41:59

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Nikki Brown-Booker

Program Officer

Nikki Brown-Booker is the Program Officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy.

As a person with a disability and a biracial woman, she has devoted her work to advancing rights at the intersection of disability justice and racial justice. The daughter of a domestic worker who immigrated from the Philippines and a professional chef and a long-term SEIU member, Nikki was taught from a young age that justice is a human right. Nikki was the Executive Director for Easy Does It Emergency Services, a nonprofit that provides emergency services for people with disabilities and seniors in Berkeley, California. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Nikki continues to organize with Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, and helped pass the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

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Interview length: 00:56:24