MARIE CLAIRE: What is your personal connection to this cause?
AI-JEN POO: My grandmother, who is 87, is able to have a vibrant life because a caregiver named Mrs. Sun supports her. Her work makes so much possible for our family, and I think the more we value people like Mrs. Sun, the healthier our society will be.
MC:What challenges do domestic workers face?
AP: Since these women are not given protections like a minimum wage, sick days, and overtime pay, we often compare it to the Wild West—a worker never knows what she is going to get. She might find a wonderful family who pays a living wage and benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, we see workers who haven't been paid for months, and cases of abuse, rape, and trafficking.
MC:Three states have passed "Domestic Workers Bills of Rights." What does this type of legislation address?
AP: The concept of a "bill of rights" originated at a convention in 2003. More than 200 domestic workers listed things that would improve their work, from paid holidays to health care to basic recognition and a thank-you. We turned the core pieces into legislation. Every state is approaching it differently, but they're working to recognize that all workers deserve protection.
MC:Where are the next battlegrounds?
AP: There's strong interest from legislators in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington state. The first hearings in the Massachusetts legislature are under way.