On Domestic Workers’ Day, A Call to Action

Outside of the busy Vermont Metro station in Los Angeles today, dozens of domestic workers and supporters rallied to call for the passage of the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights.

“Behind many successful households there is a strong domestic worker,” said Altagracia Garcia to cheers. She and others spoke out for domestic workers’ legal rights and protections today–National Domestic Workers’ Day–and they made a strong case.

Introduced by state assembly member Tom Ammiano in February, the bill would grant the basic rights afforded most other workers–paid overtime, workers’ compensation–to domestic workers. Such workers, who are overwhelmingly immigrant women of color, have been consistently left out of labor laws, as their non-traditional positions don’t fit standard legislation.

On July 1, 2010 New York became the first state to ever enact such a bill, which guarantees paid time off, legal protection from discrimination and harassment and a minimum one day of rest per week, among other victories.

The passage of the California bill would also ensure that live-in domestic workers would have the right to sleep at least five hours each night and have access to employers’ kitchens to cook their own food. Advocates say that because those rights are specific to live-in caregivers, they must be enshrined in domestic worker-specific law.

Lolita Andrada Lledo, associate director of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, told Ms. that the ability to cook their own food is essential for caregivers–rather than being limited to what food that their elderly and ill patients are able to eat. “We want them to respect our culture, where we come from,” she says.

On the right to sleep, Lledo says in-home workers are often denied sleep entirely, especially when caring for stroke victims and elders with dementia or Alzheimer’s who have round-the-clock needs.

“Stroke victims sleep, but you need to turn them over every two hours,” she says. “How can you expect someone to survive [without sleep]? The patient will survive, but the one who’s taking care will not be able to survive,”

She told Ms. that when domestic workers have asked employers to hire a second caregiver (so each would work 12 hours, giving the other a chance to rest), employers have claimed they can’t afford a second employee.

“If you don’t have money to pay you better find other ways,” she says. “It [shouldn’t be] at our expense.”

Other speakers at the rally stressed the need to pass this bill to ensure domestic workers have legal recourse for harassment and violence in the workplace.

A 20-year veteran caregiver from Mexico spoke at the rally and said she was verbally and physically abused at her first job as a domestic worker. She said her employer’s son hurled insults at her in English (which she came to understand as she learned the language) and frequently hit her with a wet towel or a golf club. Finally, after an argument with his own mother, a restraining order was issued against him. She is now retired and organizing with CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, to ensure future generations of caregivers have basic human rights and legal protections.

To show your support for caregivers and the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, send a letter to Misa Yokoi-Shelton, legislative aide to assembly member Ammiano, at Misa.Yokoi-Shelton@asm.ca.gov by April 6th. For more information check out the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and CHIRLA’s website.

Photos from the Los Angeles rally. Top, domestic workers and organizers sing in Spanish; Right, Lolita Andrada Lledo and Filipina caregiver Tita Boots.


    It may seem easy to dismiss arguments against AB 889 as merely more complaints from the rich.
    ~Require 21 days notice prior to terminating a domestic employee. .
    ~Require annual raises equal to the increase in the CPI. This right to a raise exists regardless of merit, performance, the condition of the underlying economy or the level of the starting salary.
    ~Dramatically change the overtime laws for live-in and overnight caregivers, effectively putting such services out of the reach of working families and elderly care recipients who would lose the benefit of being able to receive care for themselves or children in the comfort and stability of their own homes.
    ~ Give State inspectors & investigators "free access" to a family's home to investigate & inspect the domestic employee's work place. If access is refused, any allegation of an injury is sufficient to support issuance of a warrant by the court.
    ~Allow reimbursement of attorney's fees in many contexts, creating a new business opportunity for enterprising lawyers targeting working families.

    • Women with families are the domestic workers who are being hurt by not having their basic human rights protected, equally, as with all other people. It is unconstitutional to not have these rights ensured by the American Government.

  2. Benefits of the New Law:
    •The new law will give greater benefits to caregivers than to average workers.
    •The law will push more families to take the risk of hiring under the table since it will be easier to pay cash.
    •The law will help caregivers that prefer to work for cash so they can avoid paying taxes.
    •The law will increase the opportunities for undocumented workers that need to work for cash.
    •The rich will save money by hiring for cash and not withholding for taxes.
    Drawbacks of the New Law:
    •California will collect less in taxes while increasing spending to try to enforce the new law.
    •Caregivers that want to be paid legally and build up their social security will have to compete for fewer jobs.
    See, the benefits out way the drawbacks. How is that for Liberal thinking?

  3. Kathy Janz says:

    The authors are so disingenous that they have given an exception to the worst offenders: the home care and housekeeping companies that do not treat their workers as employees but pay wages without EDD, Medicare and social security contributions and then issue 1099s at the end of the year. These companies were exempted because _ they have technically transferred employer responsibilities to the clients. The client is intentionally kept ignorant of their liabilites and the company does not have to pay any workers compensation nor make payroll contributions.

    So why did Ammiano and Perex give the Domestic Referral Agencies using 1099s a ride: bcecause the attorneys can not go after them for being in violation of any of the wage and order stipulations that AB889 puts forth.

    What does California lose: federal and state payroll tax deductions, EDD – unemployment income and lastly has to pick up the cost of state funded public assistance and MediCal because there are no social security and Medicare contributions made. Additionally,Domestic Worker Rights are lost as more and more workers will be employed in “this underground” economy regardless of their legal/alien status. This bill will force many small employer-employee businesses to shutter or go underground.

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