The Rhode Island House of Representatives today passed a bill by Rep. Leonela Felix to ensure domestic workers are paid at least the state’s minimum wage.
For most workers, Rhode Island’s minimum wage is currently $13 per hour and on track to reach $15 by 2025. But for domestic workers, most of whom are women and people of color, the minimum wage is less than half that, at just $7.25.
“Domestic workers deserve the same rights as everyone else,” said Representative Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket). “For too long, they’ve been excluded because most are people who society views as less valuable such as women, immigrants and people of color. But, these workers, like all of us, have families to support and bills to pay and they’re not worth any less. This legislation will ensure they enjoy the same protections as the wider workforce.”
Under current Rhode Island law, privately employed domestic workers are explicitly excluded from the state’s minimum wage. Representative Felix’s legislation (2023-H 5371) would remove that exemption.
A 2019 report from the Economic Policy Institute found there were over 1,500 such workers in Rhode Island who cleaned homes, cared for children and provided health care to the elderly. The vast majority (91.5%) of domestic workers nationally are women and just over half (52.4%) are Black, Latino or Asian American/Pacific Islander women.
“Since this nation’s founding, workers have been coming together to organize and advocate for better conditions,” said Patrick Crowley, secretary treasurer for the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “We have won many important victories improving working conditions, but too often jobs primarily done by women, immigrants and people of color have been excluded from these gains. This bill is an important step in rectifying past wrongs that will benefit the almost 1,500 Rhode Islanders working in domestic service.”
The bill now heads to the Senate where Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) has introduced companion legislation (2023-S 0424).
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