Washington Post's Marc Fisher devoted his July 22 column, "Law Reinforces Montgomery as a Nanny State" to pooh-poohing a recently-passed bill by the affluent, liberal Maryland county that borders the District of Columbia on its northwest side. Fisher leveled a charge that free-market advocates and conservative Marylanders would cheer regarding the new ordinance mandating that employers of nannies provide a written contract.
"This is a classic MoCo decision to make law as a political statement rather than as a remedy to a burning social need," Fisher complained, noting that "conditions for domestic workers in Montgomery are considerably better than in many other places."
What's more, if nannies don't like their work environment, "the proper remedy" would be "to quit and find other work," Fisher argued.
Sounds pretty conservative for a WaPo columnist, so what's the catch? Well, one of Fisher's qualms with the law's development was how it might make Montgomery County seem hostile to illegal immigrants:
Earlier in the debate on this bill, the council was more divided. Council member Duchy Trachtenberg faced off against one of the bill's sponsors, George Leventhal, on WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show," with Trachtenberg arguing that the nanny bill was well intentioned but useless. It would actually "dissuade people from employing people who don't have legal status" and would "jeopardize workers by bringing up their immigration status," she said.
The bill as passed doesn't mention immigration status. But Trachtenberg, who later came to support the measure, was right to have raised the concern: If the county wants to be supportive of illegal immigrants, or at least doesn't want to join Prince William County in overtly fighting their presence, then requiring residents to put into writing their relationship with illegal domestic workers is hardly a way to encourage a don't ask, don't tell approach.
To be fair to Fisher, the impact of the legislation on illegal immigrants was not THE chief reason he opposes the new law, but it's certainly a reason.
All the same, it is nice to see some sanity in the Post about the impact of nanny state regulation on the labor market:
More important, this latest expression of MoCo's nanny reflex is another case of overreach. Domestic workers were excluded from federal labor law for a reason; there ought to be in any society some less formal work relationships that enable newcomers and other strivers to shape their lives in ways that standard rules of employment might not allow.