Domestic Insurgents

In These Times

“Domestic Insurgents”

In organizing domestic workers, a feat once thought impossible, Al-jen Poo has transformed the labor movement.

BY Rebecca Burns

The way that we think about leading with love is through a deep connection to everybody’s fundamental human dignity. There’s a real power in that, and a power in human relationships that are built on respect and recognition of one another’s humanity.

Real-life nannies have never had much in common with Fran Drescher’s “flashy girl from Flushing.” The domestic workforce is overwhelmingly composed of women of color, many of them immigrants. Care workers often labor for long hours under grueling conditions. In many states, they lack even basic workplace protections, a result of their exclusion from collective bargaining under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is out to change much more than labor law. Poo grew up watching her Taiwanese immigrant parents struggle to balance work and family, and she believes that good jobs for domestic workers would also help solve what she calls the nation’s “care crisis.”

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