Despite a brief moment of optimism, it turns out that domestic workers in California still won’t be guaranteed a lunch break.
As part of his clean sweep on unfinished legislation from the state house, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) late last night vetoed a bill that would have ensured basic rights for in-home aide workers. Such protections would have included overtime pay, meal breaks, and “adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers.”
The California Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby with strong anti-union positions, opposed the protections, arguing that domestic workers couldn’t take breaks without endangering the health of those for whom they are providing care.
Brown apparently sided with those interests. In a letter explaining his decision, he said that he had “unanswered questions” about the bill. But he seemed to have answered some of those questions, as well, since he provided a list of qualms he had with the legislation, arguing that it would cost the state, and disabled employers, too much.
The Domestic Workers’ Alliance responded to Brown’s veto in a statement, calling Brown’s decision “a huge disappointment”:
“It is a huge disappointment that Governor Brown chose not to recognize the people caring for California’s families and homes as real workers,” said Sylvia Lopez a worker with the California Domestic Workers Coalition, sponsor of the bill. “For decades we have tirelessly cared for California’s homes, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities without the protection of basic rights. Tonight, Governor Brown has done a tremendous disservice to thousands of domestic workers, their families, and the people they care for.”
Domestic workers are a largely immigrant, largely female constituency across the country — groups that are often voiceless in political debates. The rights requested in the bill were in no way substantially different from those afforded to employees in small or large businesses, but are harder to enforce in a household setting.