COVID-19 Leaves Black Domestic Workers Strained, Unseen and Vulnerable

A National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) June survey—completed by over 800 Black nannies, elderly caretakers, housekeepers and other domestic workers—shed light on workers’ conditions during COVID-19.

The survey results bring about one conclusion: Black domestic workers deserve better.

COVID-19 Leaves Black Domestic Workers Strained, Unseen and Vulnerable
(@domesticworkers / Twitter)

Job Loss

The Miami-Dade area was hit hardest, as 93 percent of the respondents had been terminated from their place of work or faced significant hour cuts. These percentages were even higher for undocumented workers.

Seventy percent of the Black immigrant workers surveyed experienced a serious shift in their work life. They either lost their jobs—45 percent—or faced a significant reduction in hours—25 percent.

Housing and Security

An astounding 65 percent of respondents reported feeling at risk of eviction or utility shut down in the next three months. The percentage rose to 90 for the Miami-Dade area.

As the economy opens up, domestic workers who have been working through the crisis, as well as those laid off, feel even more stretched, unseen and vulnerable. 


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Anticipating a massive housing crisis on the horizon due to job loss, domestic workers—especially Black immigrants and workers for private employers—are being significantly excluded from relief available to other workers across the country.

Safety and Welfare

In the midst of job cuts, 49 percent are too fearful to seek assistance from their local, state or federal government because of their immigration status. 

Additionally, the lack of general personal protection equipment (PPE) provided to these workers is startling: 73 percent had not received needed PPEs from their place of work. This percentage, once again, was higher amongst undocumented workers. 

The irony is palpable: Workers taking care of most vulnerable members of society (the elderly and children) have not been able to get essential PPE—putting themselves, those they work for and their own families at great risk.

Fifty-one percent do not have medical insurance, and 88 percent of undocumented workers do not have insurance.

And most shockingly, one in four respondents had lived with someone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or experienced the symptoms themselves.

A Livelihood that Exists at Difficult Intersections

Black domestic workers are a marginalized group who exist at the intersection of racism, gendered violence and many other factors that engender mistreatment, said Aimée-Josiane Twagirumukiza, Black organizing director for NDWA.

“Black domestic workers are in this situation because of the history of domestic work. In the U.S., domestic work is, of course, rooted in the institution of slavery,” she said.  

June 16 marked International Domestic Worker Day, but seems to be a celebration in name only.

How can domestic workers truly be honored when many are facing severe financial duress and hazardous work conditions?


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About

Audrey Gibbs is a junior at Sewanee: The University of the South, majoring in English with minors in Shakespeare studies and politics. She hopes to continue her education through law or journalism school. In her free time, she is a singer/songwriter and an actress.