A Living Wage for Caregivers

Marlene Juarez worked as a nanny for a family near Boston, taking care of four children ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years old; she organized play dates, cooked, did laundry and cleaned a large house. Both parents worked full time and in some weeks asked Juarez to work as many as 60 or 70 hours. Juarez had recently emigrated from Honduras, and was afraid to complain. She couldn’t afford to lose her job. But, once, she requested a few hours off to deal with a personal matter — and in response, her employers docked her pay.

“If you’re reducing my pay when I ask to work less hours,” she said, “shouldn’t you increase my pay when you ask me to work more hours?”

“They said no,” Juarez recalled. “They said I had no right to overtime.”

Juarez’s experience is common. There are 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States — nannies, housekeepers and caregivers — and although domestic work is the nation’s fastest growing occupation, with a million new jobs expected within the next 10 years, this work remains hidden in a poorly regulated shadow economy in which abuses are rampant.

Read the whole op-ed at nytimes.com »