On December 6, the D.C. Council unanimously approved a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, extending crucial recognition and labor protections to thousands of domestic workers. The legislation is expected to pass its final vote on December 20. I spoke with Erica Sklar, the National Organizer for the Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, who advocated alongside the winning coalition.

What does the recent vote on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights mean for the people of D.C.?

Nearly 10,000 domestic workers who are caring for people in homes across the District will finally benefit from clear policy that protects their rights and dignity. Employers who already want to do the right thing won’t have to rely on their best guess as to what the right thing is – they’ll have memorialized policy and guidance.

The bill includes a written contract, so the city will have to create a contract template which is helpful for employers to make critical hiring and retention decisions. And workers will finally know their rights, have them written down, and know their expectations at work.

This is a big win for our human dignity. The policy expressly includes instead of expressly prohibiting the basic rights to domestic workers that were all holdovers from slavery – for example, the human rights code in D.C. excepts “domestic servants” from employment protections. Domestic workers, almost all of whom are women and mostly women of color, are explicitly left out by law in most places in the country. That changes now.

What else have you learned in the advocacy process?

We need to make the political process as accessible as possible – in terms of language and physical access. We need to ensure appropriate interpretation so that we really can understand each other. In New Jersey, some of the chairs of committees asked for Spanish-speakers to read translations, which didn’t allow workers to fully testify.

And so many places, especially state houses, are absolutely inaccessible for people who use wheelchairs. They value the history of the building over the ability for people to use the building to advocate, and that’s shameful. Inaccessibility impacts what’s possible in the halls of government – we need to make sure that everyone can participate.

Read the full interview with Erica Sklar about D.C. domestic workers by Bella DeVaan at Inequality.org.