RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia lawmakers joined the nonprofit Care in Action and SEIU Virginia 512 for a Worker’s Rights Rally at Capitol Square on Tuesday morning.
“Unfortunately, some folks want to roll back the Domestic Bill of Rights we recently passed here in Virginia,” said Alexis Rodgers, the nonprofit's Virginia State Director who helped organize the rally. “The Domestic Bill of Rights extends basic protections like wage protections, safety and health protection and anti-discrimination protections to domestic workers who have historically been excluded.”
She's worried most about Senate Bill 179 or the Virginia Human Rights Act.
“It basically repeals all the work we’ve done on domestic workers rights in Virginia,” Rodgers explained. “It would exclude most domestic workers from being protected from our workplace protection laws. It would also mean that workers don’t have access to the same safety and health protections other workers enjoy.”
Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) sponsored the bill on behalf of the Family Foundation. If passed, his bill would exclude babysitters, nannies, caretakers and home health aides from being designated as “domestic workers."
“The point of the bill is not to keep them out of wage requirements. It’s to protect families from having somebody in their home who has values that they don’t agree with,” Peake stated.
Peake argued that these individuals spend hours inside the home and around someone's loved ones. He believed a family should be able to act if a worker contradicts their social, religious or political beliefs.
“An atheist may not want somebody who is a born-again religious Baptist coming in and preaching to their children about Jesus and him being the savior,” he said. “If that atheist wanted to fire somebody for their religious beliefs they would be protected as well.”
Virginia was the first state in the South to pass a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and create a path to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Often women of color, immigrants and individuals from marginalized communities fill these domestic worker roles, Rodgers said.
Peake admitted that the bill is certain to fail in the Democratic-led Senate.