"A few staff the homes of the terrifically wealthy, serving the 1% in homegrown, contemporary versions of 'Upstairs/Downstairs' and 'Downton Abbey.' Many, many more work in the homes of busy, middle-class professionals who have sufficient income and wealth to hire help to do the chores that would otherwise consume their limited time."
Others assist people of lesser incomes, stopping in to clean or help an elderly person with chores.
But many domestic workers struggle to take care of their own families, the report said. It found that 60% of domestic workers in America spend more than half their income on rent or mortgage payments; 20% said there were times in the month before they were interviewed that there was no food to eat in their homes.
Live-in workers earned less than those who did not, the report said. Live-in nannies earned a median wage of $6.76 an hour compared with $11.55 for those who lived elsewhere. Live-in caregivers made $7.69 an hour while others made $10.
The survey found that 65% of domestic workers have no health insurance, and less than 9% work for employers who pay into Social Security.
The report recommends policies that rectify the exclusion of domestic workers from employment and labor laws. Theodore said nannies, house cleaners and caregivers ought to earn minimum wage and be offered benefits. And they deserve a safe and healthy working environment.
Theodore, who co-wrote the report with Linda Burnham of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said even he was surprised at the depth and breadth of abuse of domestic workers. He interviewed Anna, who since then has left her employer, and spoke with many others in her situation. One woman even told him her employer pulled a knife on her.
It's the kind of thing you hear about in other nations but few think of this kind of thing happening in America.
It raises questions about immigration and the economy, Theodore said. "It speaks to how we as a society are going to care for our children and elderly."