The Domestic Workers United (DWU) has named Richard D. Winsten, (Co-Chair of the Government Relations practice at Meyer, Suozzi), as an Advocate of the Decade as they celebrated 10 years of organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and building a movement for change. Recognized for his work on behalf of domestic workers and all workers in low-wage jobs previously excluded from legislative and regulatory protections, Richard Winsten was instrumental in the recent passage of New York State’s landmark Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, the first such state legislation in the nation, and a bellwether for reform of household employees.
“It is an honor to be recognized by the Domestic Workers United,” said Mr. Winsten.“The practice of law is a proud profession that enables me to make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of workers in New York, and I share this honor with they who have spent lifetimes toiling without basic wage and workplace protections.”
The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights provided safeguards for housekeepers, maids, nannies and others who perform low-prestige but vital tasks in private homes. Despite application of minimum wage and overtime sections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to domestic workers since 1974, broad exemptions diminished that coverage and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) expressly excepts people ‘in the domestic service of any person or family at home’ who therefore lacked bargaining power to obtain by collective action the kinds of benefits denied them by the FLSA. Examples of other federal protections withheld from this group include the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s guarantee of a safe workplace and Title VII’s entitlement to freedom from discrimination.
This New York State law now broadly defines ‘domestic workers’ and improves on their wages and working conditions providing for mandatory overtime, time off and earned paid vacation, protection under the workers’ compensation law, and protections against sexual harassment as well as harassment based on gender, race, religion or national origin.
Mr. Winsten is Chairman of the Board of the New York State Public Utility Law Project, a legal services backup center for representation of low income consumers of telephone, electric, gas and other utility services. He has served as a Member of the Board since 1989. Mr. Winsten obtained his Juris Doctor for New York University School of Law in 1977 and graduated Binghamton University in 1973.