Prominent Labor Activists You Should Know: Ai-jen Poo

Prominent Labor Activists You Should Know: Ai-jen Poo

National Women’s Month is still in effect, and we are excited to discuss our next prominent labor activist you should know: Ai-Jen Poo. Ai-Jen Poo has been working vigorously for over two decades advocating for the rights of domestic workers and caregivers. Her efforts have led to significant victories for workers’ rights and social justice and have made her a leading voice in the fight for labor protections and fair treatment for all workers.


Named one of Time magazine’s most influential people, Poo was born in 1974 to her mother, Wen-jen Hwu, and father, Mu-ming Poo, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her Taiwanese-American parents instilled social justice and educational values in her at an early age. Her mother has a Ph.D. in chemistry, an MD, and was an oncologist at two top cancer centers in Taiwan. Poo’s father is a neuroscientist and one-time political activist. He emigrated from Taiwan in the 1970s.

Prominent Labor Activists You Should Know: Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo attended Phillips Academy and graduated in 1992. She then attended Columbia University, majoring in women’s studies. Her experience as an activist began upon joining one hundred students in an occupation of the Low Library, demanding that Columbia create a new diverse curriculum for students. As a result, Columbia developed the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Ai-jen Poo later recalled how that experience empowered her. She said, “Working with a really diverse group of students around our shared goals gave me a sense of how powerful campaigns can be if they’re strategic—how it is possible to really make change.”

Prominent Labor Activists You Should Know: Ai-jen Poo

The Beginning of Change

Ai-jen Poo’s career as an activist began in 1996, focusing on labor standards and working conditions for domestic or private-household workers. Domestic workers, including housekeepers, caregivers, and nannies, are excluded from a majority of federal and state labor laws. Some laws include occupational safety and health protection, sick and paid vacation, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, and more. 


In 2000, Ai-jen organized domestic workers with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, a division within the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. She also helped found the New York-based Domestic Workers United (DWU), an organization of Caribbean, Latina, and African domestic workers across New York. 

She served as DWU’s lead organizer for nine years and led successful campaigns in parks, on buses, and in other places where people gathered to educate and inform mistreated workers about their rights.  


In 2007, Poo founded the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). On July 1, 2010, Poo got her first massive breakthrough with the NDWA as she helped secure a significant policy win for domestic workers. After a difficult seven-year-long legislative campaign, the New York state legislature passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, permitting domestic workers the same rights as other employees, including overtime, 3-day paid time off, vacation time, and more. The policy also protects domestic workers from discrimination. 

Prominent Labor Activists You Should Know: Ai-jen Poo

More Accomplishments

Ai-jen Poo’s fight as a labor activist prevails as she continues to serve as the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, director of Caring Across Generations, co-founder of SuperMajority, and trustee of the Ford Foundation. Her decades-long work as an activist is highly recognized and valued by many. We are grateful for her phenomenal work and remarkable character. Check out more of her accomplishments below. 


You can read about more of her accomplishments here.


Thank you Ai-jen Poo for your outstanding hard work and tireless dedication. You are valued and much appreciated. 


Happy Women’s Month 

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