Domestic Worker Rights Are Human Rights
* Trumka: `Domestic Worker Rights Are Human Rights' (AFL-
* #BeTheHelp: Support Domestic Workers (National Domestic
Trumka: `Domestic Worker Rights Are Human Rights'
Labor photojournalist David Bacon sends us this from
AFL-CIO Now Blog
February 23, 2012
Veronica, a young domestic worker from Southern California,
took her heart in her hands to speak to a barrage of
television cameras and microphones, in a hearing room in the
state Capitol building in Sacramento. She wasn't afraid,
though, she said, because she felt the strength of unions
Standing in front of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, she
Today I know we have the support of the largest union in
the country. I believe we can pass our bill of rights.
Yes we can! ¡Si se puede!
Veronica was paid $350 - $400 a week to clean 34 houses, at
little more than $10 per house. And for that wage, she had
to clean everything.
Trumka responded, telling the legislators and other domestic
workers, who'd gathered with the press,
This bill does not create new rights, it extends the
rights that almost all other workers have to domestic
He told them that domestic workers should be thanked for the
work they do.
You do the most important work of all when you take care
of the people most precious to us with such dignity.
The AFL-CIO president recognized that when the country's
basic labor law was written three-quarters of a century ago,
the workers, mostly women, who clean homes and take care of
children the sick and the elderly, were written out of it.
Today, across the country, those workers are knocking on the
door, demanding rights most workers take for granted.
Domestic workers often don't get a break to eat, even
working many more than the eight-hour workday considered
normal for most workers. Others cook for the families they
work for, but can't use the same implements to cook for
themselves. If they have to sleep in the homes of clients,
they often have to get up during the night several times to
perform basic services for them, like taking them to the
bathroom, or giving them medicine. And the night is
considered a rest period, for which they sometimes don't get
Teresita Gao-Ay, a domestic worker from San Diego, said
she'd been a caregiver since 1986, working from 7 a.m. to 9.
I had to do everything from cooking, cleaning whole
house, laundry that had to be pressed and folded,
including sheets, gardening and caring for the dog. And
I had to do this for the whole family, not just for the
client I was taking care of. But how can you say no? I
was living in their house. Plus, they said they'd call
the police if I didn't do as they asked. Then, when I
was injured on the job, no one paid me for the days I
had to take off to recover.
Last year, the state Assembly passed A.B. 889, authored by
San Francisco Assembly member Tom Ammiano, that would give
domestic workers some state-recognized rights in their
efforts to curb abusive conditions. It would provide meal
and rest breaks, overtime and reporting pay as enjoyed by
other workers, and expand domestic workers' access to
workers compensation. In addition, it would guarantee eight
hours of sleep for those who work around the clock, and
allow them to use kitchen facilities.
The bill would affect the 200,000 people who work in
California domestic service, who are almost entirely women,
and immigrants or people of color. While domestic workers
face the same excuses for substandard conditions faced by
other women, namely that they're only working to supplement
the income of men, most of them are either the sole source
of income for their families, or are bringing home pay that
their families can't live without.
Sascha Bittner, a disabled woman who employs a domestic
worker to help take care of her, explains that the bill
isn't directed against people like her. She belongs to Hand
in Hand, a group of people who employ the workers and who
support the proposed law.
I couldn't do anything without the crucial help of care
givers," she said. "They are crucial to the Independent
Living Movement. Like disabled people domestic workers
need respect and dignity. They deserve to finally be
guaranteed the same rights as other workers.
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is modeled on one that
was enacted in New York in 2010. It is supported by dozens
of statewide worker and community advocates, including the
California Labor Federation and many other unions, Filipino
Advocates for Justice, the Filipino Workers Center, the
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles,
Mujeres Unidas y Activas, the Women's Collective of the San
Francisco Day Labor Program, a number of churches and
synagogues, and Hand in Hand, the Domestic Workers Employers
Association. Its main opponent is the business association
for agencies that provide domestic workers to clients.
At the end of the last session of the legislature, the bill
was in the appropriations committee of the state Senate.
Trumka came to Sacramento to lend the federation's support
to the effort to pry the bill loose, get it passed through
the Senate, and convince Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it.
"What you're doing here is important in Sacramento, and San
Francisco, and Los Angeles, and across California," Trumka
And it's important far beyond this state. It's important
to every worker who has ut in days that are too long to
earn paychecks that are too small. It's important to
every worker who has suffered disrespect, to every
worker who asks only for the basics of a decent life -
fair wages, safe working conditions, the security to
give hope to their children.
Trumka then called for recognition of domestic workers'
rights. "It's not right that domestic workers should be
excluded from over time pay laws," he told the crowd in
front of the capitol.
It's time for that to end. It's not right that domestic
workers are excluded from collective bargaining laws.
It's time for that to end. Domestic workers' rights are
civil rights. Domestic workers' rights are human rights.
[David Bacon, Stories, Photographs- http://dbacon.igc.org/ ]
#BeTheHelp: Support Domestic Workers
created by National Domestic Workers Alliance
Why This Is Important
"We are four generations of domestic workers from my great-
grandmother to me. If you count our labor years
consecutively, it is almost 75 years in the profession,
almost the same amount of years that domestic workers in
this country have been excluded from basic labor
protections, " says CA domestic worker, Grecia Lima.
Last month in Sacramento, the California Domestic Workers
Coalition, representing thousands of childcare providers,
caregivers and housekeepers from around the state, along
with labor and community supporters, gathered to advocate
for the passage of AB 889, the Domestic Workers Bill of
Rights. This bill will provide equal pay for equal work for
thousands of Californians who have been excluded from basic
labor protections for decades.
Support for the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
is important because of children like Maria, a 14 year old
girl eldest of 4, whose mom is a domestic worker. Maria's
mom comes home with back pain, neck pain and hungry. Her
employer does not like to see her sit down, and she doesn't
have time to eat during her 10 hour shift. Maria's mother is
never paid overtime, even when she is asked to spend the
night. Maria's mom doesn't want to leave this job because
she cares about the children she is taking care of. But her
knees are getting worse and she doesn't know what she will
do when she can no longer stand the pain.
"I know that the sacrifices that my mom makes are to give us
a better life, to make sure that we do well in school and we
have everything we need, but I feel a great sadness when I
see my mom come back from work so tired and unappreciated."
Maria's mom story is not every domestic worker's story but
every worker is just as vulnerable. Domestic Workers have
been excluded from basic labor protections from more than 70
years and it is time for California to lead the way.
#BeTheHelp we need and tell the leadership of the Senate to
commemorate International Domestic Worker's Day March 30th,
2012 by passing the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
State by state, we can change the course of history.
#BeTheHelp is a campaign of the National Domestic Workers
Alliance that encourages people like you to take simple
actions that create respect, recognition and protections for
domestic workers in California and across America. For more
ways you can #bethehelp, visit www.domesticworkers.org.
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