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Pay, professionalism, and respect black domestic workers continue the call for standards in the care industry

Date Added to Library: 
Monday, August 23, 2021 - 14:17
Individual Author: 
Bayard, Marc
Freeman Brown, Kimberly
Reference Type: 
Published Date: 
Published Date (Date): 
Friday, October 5, 2018

Pay, Professionalism & Respect is a two-volume report detailing the history and current challenges facing black nannies, home care workers, and house cleaners in Atlanta, GA, and Durham, NC, such as systemically low wages, rampant sexual harassment, and a lack of benefits. It also details policy recommendations and reforms that are needed to transform the entire care industry, which is one of the fastest growing in the country.

In a city-wide survey of 101 Black domestic workers in Durham, we found:

  • 93% were women
  • 91% made less than $30,000, 76% reported not making enough to cover living expenses
  • 59% receive public assistance
  • 95% reported workplace concerns such as: low wages, workplace injuries or health and safety issues, asked to do work different from original hired job, lack of employer benefits, lack of training, asked to work more than scheduled hours, no paid time off
  • 57% reported working while sick, and 30% reported canceling a medical appointment because of work
  • 64% did not have work contracts

The stories in these reports also show that Black women set a standard of professionalism that belies the conditions, treatment, and pay they receive in doing this work. Despite poverty wages and racial and gender bias, a number of women interviewed come out of pocket to meet clients’ needs or conduct research about their clients’ conditions in their own time. They also use their work as a nucleus of organizing and advocating for others in their field.


  1. Expand and leverage public investment in home care to create quality jobs
  2. Establish basic labor protections for domestic workers in all employment settings
  3. Prioritize investment in enforcement of labor standards and protections for domestic workers in all employment settings
  4. Strengthen workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain for greater accountability
  5. Extend to domestic workers similar economic, educational, and social benefits extended to veterans, law enforcement, and teachers

(author abstract)

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