Legal Aid is deeply concerned about Chair Mendelson’s recent decision to change the committee referral for the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022 (Bill 24-712). As a strong supporter of the Domestic Worker Employment Rights bill, we believe his re-referral could effectively stall the bill’s progress during the final year of Council Period 24. This triple referral causes an unnecessary delay that will hurt essential workers, such as home health aides, to whom we regularly provide direct legal services. Legal Aid urges Business Committee Chairman McDuffie and Government Operations Committee Chairman Robert White to consider and mark up the measure immediately (September or October) when the Council returns from recess so that the Council can pass the bill before the end of the year.
The Domestic Worker’s Rights bill was introduced with the broad support of nine council members and, because it dealt with worker protections, was initially referred to the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development with comments from the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities. The Labor Committee had a public hearing on June 16, 2022, in which over 90 witnesses testified – overwhelmingly in support of the measure. Given such high levels of community support, the Labor Committee should be preparing the bill for mark-up and approval for full Council consideration. However, Chairman Mendelson’s re-referral of the bill, seemingly against the wishes of the Chair of the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities has stalled the bill’s progress.
The Labor Committee is well-positioned to mark up the bill in the fall and referring the bill to two other committees is unnecessary. The original referral already contemplated that the Committee on Government Operations would offer comments on the bill, making a further hearing and/or mark-up before that committee needlessly duplicative. Further, any potential stakeholders (including businesses) who may have wished to submit testimony regarding the bill have had ample opportunity to do so. Ultimately, the Labor Committee already has an extensive hearing record with which to work in marking up this bill and should be permitted to do so under the conditions of the original referral.
With such a short window of time, and the uncertainty created by this unfavorable triple referral, committee chairs must act immediately upon return from recess to ensure the full Council is able to vote on this bill. Business Committee Chair McDuffie and Government Operations Committee Chair Robert White must commit to marking up the measure this fall so that the Council can pass the bill before the end of Council Period 24. Council summer recess lasts from July 15th until September 15th and during this time, committees are unable to mark up bills. And with the final legislative meeting of the year on December 20th, that leaves the Council with roughly three months to act.
Over 9,000 domestic workers in DC need this legislation now. Most domestic workers are women of color who have cared for District families and homes before and throughout the pandemic. As such, Legal Aid strongly urges the Council to act.