Ai-jen Poo CC ’96 is one of 21 members of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program (commonly known as “Genius Grants”), an award that recognizes creativity and achievement in a variety of fields and comes with a grant of $625,000 delivered over the course of five years. Poo is the co-founder and former lead organizer of Domestic Workers United, an organization that mobilizes and unifies domestic workers to legislate for worker rights. In 2009, she became director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, campaigning for rights for nannies, housekeepers and caregivers.
Poo’s work led to New York passing the country’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2010, which entitles domestic workers to overtime pay, one day off each week and protection from harassment and discrimination. In 2012, the National Domestic Workers Alliance worked with the U.N.’s International Labour Organization at the International Labour Conference to pass The Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, an international treaty that entitles domestic workers to basic labor rights.
In 2012, Poo’s dedication to worker rights was celebrated when she was voted one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. She is currently in the process of developing a new campaign called Caring Across Generations, which will focus on bringing together home health care workers and elderly people in mutually beneficial ways.
In the September 17 announcement of Poo’s Genius Grant, the MacArthur Foundation writes: “Combining a deep understanding of the complex tangle of human relations around domestic work with keen strategic skills, Poo has created a vibrant, worker-led labor movement and spearheaded successful legislative campaigns at the national and international levels.” Read more about Poo’s work in Columbia College Today, and see the announcement from the MacArthur Foundation.