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Nanny training graduation ceremony

Equity at Work Helping Expand Initiatives

The Worker Institute Equity at Work initiative supports domestic workers and their employers in improving workplace standards.

More than 600 New York City nannies have received training and leadership certification from the  ILR School through the We Rise coalition and its Care Forward initiative. The coalition is now set to go beyond New York City by expanding its efforts nationally in 2023.

Although New York was the first state to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010, domestic workers remained excluded from basic labor protections. This left domestic workers vulnerable. During the pandemic, domestic workers, most of whom are immigrant women of color, have been especially impacted by the loss of income and key workplace protections.

The nanny training began with teams of Cornell faculty teaching domestic workers about workplace issues and transformed in 2017 to We Rise, a peer-based, multi-lingual (Spanish, Nepali and English) training and empowerment program working to transform the domestic worker industry. Through We Rise, the Worker Institute and the National Domestic Workers Alliance partnering with Beyond Care Cooperative, Nanny Bee Cooperative, Community Resource Center, Carroll Gardens Association, Adhikaar and We Dream in Black/NDWA New York, peer training on rights, as well as support strategies to organize for change, was organized. An International Labour Organization webinar in October including WeRise members and We Rise supporter New York City Council member Shahana Hanif highlighted worker, employer and legislative collaboration.

The Care Forward initiative takes worker empowerment a step further by including families and employers as partners with domestic workers in raising standards for overtime pay and other issues affecting nannies, house cleaners and domestic workers.

A pilot Care Forward program was launched in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens and Park Slope communities as the first neighborhood standard-raising initiative in the country with partners Hand in Hand, Park Slope Parents and the office of New York City Council member Hanif. The program's vision is to create dignified, caring workplaces by supporting employers as they learn about their responsibilities and workers about their rights.

Building coalitions centered on standards in neighborhoods will help drive new industry standards and change the community culture around care, organizers said.

"Given the dynamics of workers employed in private homes, it becomes even more critical for us to train a mass of workers in worker rights and negotiations coupled with a broader organizing strategy with employers to raise standards across the industry,” according to We Rise.

In 2023, We Rise is expanding to Connecticut and New Jersey, and people in more states are expected to participate, reaching hundreds of more domestic workers to raise standards across the country. Care Forward said it will work to ensure all nannies receive overtime pay in Brooklyn

"This is a vital moment to expand domestic worker power to ensure access to essential benefits like paid sick days and family leave, living wages, a path to citizenship, and to ultimately transform the economy to one that values care and feminized labor over profits and production," the organization said in a statement.

As Rosa Pena, a We Rise lead trainer, said, “We Rise has made me a leader and been a super powerful program in my community. I have seen others who didn't think they could do what I did -- become transformed and empowered by this program. I am excited to spread it across the country to build our great movement among domestic workers to help raise the standards in this industry and change their lives.”