Florida did not introduce legislation to enact a statewide Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (DWBOR) in the 2023 session. Congress has yet to reintroduce H.R. 4826/S. 2569, the federal DWBOR Act.
Domestic workers, who care for children and people with disabilities, keep homes tidy, and help older adults age in place, are needed now more than ever. Over 112,000 domestic workers provide these services in private homes throughout the state as nannies and other child care providers, direct care aides, and house cleaners. In less than a decade, care workers are expected to comprise the largest share of workers in the nation as the Baby Boomer generation increasingly requires assistance to age at home. This reality can no longer be ignored in Florida, which has the third-highest share (21.5 percent) of adults age 65 and older in the nation.
Yet the care crisis has already arrived for domestic workers. Because domestic work occurs in private households outside of public view, these workers’ struggles and identities are often overlooked. Their work is “invisible” work. Taken for granted as so-called unskilled laborers, domestic workers are met with low pay and limited to nonexistent benefits. Despite the intimate and sometimes complex and personal nature of their work, on the whole, Florida’s domestic workers are paid roughly half the median wage of other working Floridians. They are also vulnerable to a range of abuse, wage theft, and labor trafficking. As a result, the turnover rate for this profession hovers above 65 percent.
Moreover, in the 1930s, Southern states — eager to keep working people of color subservient — insisted that domestic workers be cut out of protective legislation like the National Labor Relations and Fair Labor Standards Acts. These policies gave Americans the workplace rights that are now ubiquitous (i.e., entitlement to a minimum wage, overtime, and organizing for better conditions). Advocates reversed some federal exclusions over the years, but too many remain for domestic workers. As a result of policy choices like these, the work remains disproportionately carried out by immigrant, Latina/o, and Black Floridian women.
Direct policy intervention is thus long overdue. Florida policymakers should — absent federal action — introduce a state domestic workers bill of rights, as several cities and states have successfully done since 2010. Key provisions include ensuring domestic workers:
Importantly, such a measure must include all of Florida’s domestic workers, regardless of whether they have a documented immigration status. Doing so would result in substantial benefits for the Sunshine State — it would empower Florida’s existing domestic workers, reduce home care turnover, attract new workers to meet rising care demands, reduce the harms of longstanding racial and gender discrimination, and strengthen the state economy.