In response to the recent article by Susan Tokayer, INA co-president titled Understanding the Cause: DWU
Let me start by saying that I’m not a full blown supporter of the legislative action taken by Domestic Workers United. I’ve come out publicly questioning and at times flat out opposing many of their legal issues and PR strategies. So this is not a knee jerk reaction to a negative take on the domestic workers rights movement. This is a reaction to Ms. Tokayer’s article’s underlying negative tone and implications.
She makes some valid points in the article that are worthy of debate. Unfortunately any valid points become moot when they’re surrounded by unfair and disrespectful statements.
My first reaction to this piece was anger but now, several hours after reading it, it just makes me sad and disheartened. I believe that the DWU debate has given our industry an amazing opportunity to make huge strides in bringing together a fragmented profession and making quality nanny care a priority. However rather than use this opportunity to come together, honoring our differences and rallying around our similarities, the INA has chosen to widen the gap.
Of course they have the right to take a stand. We all do. But I don’t believe they’ve taken an organizational stand here. It feels very much like a personal attack on immigrant workers. And I’m not alone. Unfortunately most nannies I know have already written the INA and all other nanny groups off. We (the organized nanny community) have become the extremists that most of the regular folk don’t want to have anything to do with. Shaking your head? Look at the total number of nannies working in this country today and compare that to the number involved in a nanny organization.
But back to the point.
Ms. Tokayer starts out by implying that DWU (see quote #1 below) uses the term immigrants to conceal the fact that they really represent undocumented workers. As if saying “immigrant” is going to fool us into thinking they’re talking about a documented worker? I have yet to run across anyone who’s confused about who DWU represents. They make no bones about who they’re working for.
She dismisses the DWU Bill of Rights achievement by saying “Part of the “new” law that was passed requires that domestic workers receive a minimum of three days’ vacation after one year of employment. This is substandard in our industry, where most nannies receive a minimum of two weeks’ vacation each year.” Well please show me the law that INA pushed through a legislative body that gives nannies two weeks paid vacation a year. Yes, two weeks is the “standard” but it’s voluntary meaning nannies can suggest it but not demand it. There’s a very big difference. It take a lot of hubris for an organization that’s been around for 25 years without passing any legislation to insult a new organization by saying their results are “substandard”. I don’t agree with everything in the DWU legislative agenda but I give them a huge amount of credit for what they’ve accomplished. It’s a lot more than I, INA or anyone else has been able to do.
Ms. Tokayer goes on to talk about all the things the INA has done for the industry. Adding “If you were to summarize one of INA’s primary goals it would be that all children are safe and well cared for, a goal that doesn’t seem to be included in DWU’s mission or message.”
Really? How is it helpful (or OK) to say in a barely veiled way that Domestic Workers United doesn’t care if children are safe and well cared for? By that logic, because INA doesn’t explicitly advocate for nanny’s rights it would be fair to say the INA doesn’t care about how nannies are treated. That’s just as untrue and unfair.
I think statements like these are truly harmful to our industry. I don’t believe they represent the kind of leadership we need and honestly, I don’t believe they represent the majority of INA members. I know the greater nanny community holds many different views on the immigration issue. However I think as a whole we believe that the overwhelming majority of nannies, both documented and undocumented, want children to be safe and well cared for.
The bottomline for me is that this piece didn’t focus on any actual issues. Instead it focused on the “lack” in immigrant workers. Is that the message that we, US born nannies, want to send? Is that the debate we want to have? Is that who we are as individuals and as a collective voice? I can only speak for myself but the answer is a resounding NO.
Let’s talk about how immigration affects our industry. Let’s talk about a credential. Let’s talk about workers’ rights. Let’s talk about the issues, not about each other.
Be the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi
QUOTE #1 “One of the most disturbing things about DWU is that they manipulate terminology so that what they say isn’t exactly what they mean. For example, representatives often refer to their constituents as “immigrants,” and claim (throughout all of their literature and on their web site) that these immigrants are excluded from and not protected by labor laws.
If you visit DWU’s web site and read these types of claims you may initially think, Wow, these people are looking out for a group of people that are unprotected. But, when you investigate further you will find that when DWU uses the term “immigrant” they refer to a specific group of immigrants only: undocumented workers. Undocumented workers (90% of DWU’s constituent base) are individuals who are in this country illegally and are not eligible to legally accept employment. Immigrants who are in this country legally, of course, have the same worker rights and protections as anyone who is legally able to accept employment in the United States.”