Back in action!

The D.C. Council is back in action, and we had our first legislative meeting of the fall on Tuesday. As we approach the end of the two-year Council session, we are racing to finish a few major pieces of legislation before the end of December.

Roughly a dozen advocates stand in front of the Wilson Building on either side of a podium where Councilmember Elissa Silverman is speaking. There are placards for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and some with messages. Councilmembers Allen, Lewis George, and Henderson are also standing with the advocates.

One of those major pieces of legislation is the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Act, which will soon go before the Labor Committee, which I chair, and two other committees before going to the full Council. You might not realize that cleaners or nannies who work in a private home do not have the same rights under labor law as those who work in an office or business. This bill rights this historic wrong, by making sure that domestic workers get a contract outlining pay and responsibilities and are covered under our human rights act. People who work as home health aides, house keepers, and nannies deserve respect, safe workspaces, and protections from discrimination. My team and I are working to get this bill passed this fall.

My bill to expand paid family leave benefits for DC government workers got its first vote (unanimous support!) from the full Council at Tuesday’s meeting. The Labor Committee has made paid family and medical leave for workers a priority for years — in the private and public sectors. We have pressed hard to make sure that we expand leave benefits, get public sector employees on a par with private sector employees, and make sure the programs get implemented (on time and under budget!) effectively by taking our oversight role seriously. Passing the bill is just the beginning and we always make it a point to follow through.

We’re also taking steps to address traffic safety — a priority for so many residents. The Council took up an important traffic safety bill yesterday put forward by Councilmember Mary Cheh. Shortly I’ll be introducing a bill of my own to reduce dangerous driving in the District using a restorative-justice-focused approach that has been proven highly effective in New York City. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Also at the legislative session the Council approved an emergency bill from Mayor Bowser establishing an Office of Migrant Services. Earlier this month she declared an emergency, but she needed authority from the Council to establish the agency and to spend money to help the more than 9,400 legal asylum seekers and all those who will follow, who have been made into political pawns by the inhumane governors of Texas and Arizona. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who has been a leader on this issue, has been working with the administration on legislation to create this new office. I know many of you raised concerns with the original bill from the Mayor. Some of those were addressed in the revised legislation and we will continue that conversation as the Council considers a permanent bill; a hearing on the permanent bill will be announced soon. Our office will continue to work with Councilmember Nadeau to make sure this bill fully supports the people coming to the District in hopes of building new lives here or at a final destination. We owe it to them and to our vision of ourselves and our city to step up and be the true sanctuary city we claim to be.

Finally, let’s celebrate a little! One month after Labor Day, some pretty incredible legislation goes into effect on Oct. 1 that benefits workers and the District as a whole. I’m pretty proud of two of those in particular:

  • A big expansion of paid family leave for private sector workers that gives more time off — now 12 weeks for family caregiving, parenting a new baby, or taking personal medical leave — and reduces the associated tax on businesses; and
  • $1,000 cash assistance payments for “excluded workers” — an estimated 15,000 undocumented residents, returning citizens, and workers in the informal economy who were not eligible for temporary federal jobless benefits during the pandemic.
    I’m excited to be back legislating, working with my colleagues to make life better for the residents and businesses in our city.

Elissa's signature

Also… be sure to check out these two great internship and career opportunities — both the outgrowth of the work of the Labor Committee:

cartoon image of a busLooking for a career as a commercial driver for WMATA or in the private sector? Demand is high and so this past year the Labor Committee proposed and funded a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program through DC Infrastructure Academy in the Department of Employment Services. Visit the DCIA website, send an email to [email protected], or call 202-899-6040 to find out about the free program.

Apply for a paid high school internship by Oct. 1! After a successful pilot program we created, the Labor Committee invested another $2 million-plus in the School Year Internship Program through the Department of Employment Services to provide internships for 1,0000 high school students. If you are 14-21 years old, get more info and apply at the DOES SYIP website.


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