Valuing the Undervalued

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Domestic workers at the Care Can’t Wait Day of Action in Washington, D.C., July 2021. (photo by Othello Banaci, National Domestic Workers Alliance)

Imagine that the steering wheel of your car malfunctions. Controlling the vehicle becomes extremely challenging and potentially dangerous to all: you, the passengers in your car, the pedestrians on the sidewalk, and the other drivers on the road. This one element of your car’s system, this one crucial thing that keeps everything on track, suddenly stops working, and it changes how the entire vehicle functions. Not only does it affect your vehicle; it affects everything and everyone else around it. 

In America, care work is one of the most undervalued and underappreciated ‘steering wheels’ for all of society. Without it, almost every other aspect of our economy and society cannot function. Yet caregivers, such as house cleaners, nannies, and direct care workers, who provide critical ongoing services to our families and communities, work without basic labor rights and protections. Additionally, 91.5% of these 2.2 million domestic workers in the U.S. are women, of whom the majority are immigrants and women of color.

Building Dignity, Power, and Respect

At the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), a prominent advocacy organization dedicated to improving the rights and working conditions of domestic workers in the U.S., the primary focus is on getting these workers dignity, respect, and fair compensation for their labor. 

“One of our biggest challenges as a country will be solving for our failure to create programs and policies to support the care we need. We are one of few developed nations that has no paid family leave program, and no universal child care or long-term care program,” says Jenn Stowe, executive director. “We are losing some of our most dedicated care workers to jobs in fast food and retail, because they cannot put food on the table and pay the bills on the income they earn. The workers we rely on to care for us can’t care for their own families doing the work they do. It’s what we call a vicious cycle and a big driver of inequality.”

Changing the Landscape

One of the significant milestones in NDWA’s history was the successful advocacy for the passage of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in New York State in 2010. This legislation granted domestic workers basic labor protections such as overtime pay and days off.

Since its inception, NDWA has grown into a nationwide network of domestic workers and allies, engaging in grassroots organizing, policy advocacy, and public awareness campaigns. But there is more work to be done. 

“With resources at our disposal, we can raise our voices louder, ensuring that the stories and struggles of domestic workers are not only heard but also understood. Philanthropy becomes a crucial ally in our mission to create awareness, provoke change, and ultimately build a more just and equitable future for the workers who have long been unseen and unheard,” says Stowe.


National Domestic Workers Alliance

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(201) 921-9459
Director, Individual Giving: Karla Salguero


 To support domestic workers to live and work with dignity.

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