Matilda Vasquez’s mother worked more than 10 years for a family that provided her no insurance or vacation time and “no rest,” she said.
“That kind of abuse has to stop. We pay taxes like everybody else,” said Vasquez at a meeting on Wednesday at the Women’s Building to organize for a Jan. 24 march on Sacramento in support of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 889.
The bill, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, seeks to give domestic workers the same rights as other California workers, including overtime pay and a 30-minute break after five hours of work.
Vasquez said that domestic workers who care for households work long hours, even overnight, but sometimes an employer “won’t let you take a shower.”
A 2007 study by Mujeres Unidas, an advocacy group, found that 93 percent of all domestic workers were unable to pay basic living expenses such as rent and groceries. The study also showed that 16 percent of domestic workers were not paid for their work at all or were paid with a bad check.
Andrea Cristina Mercado, a lead organizer with Mujeres Unidas, said, “Every day we have workers come to our office with stories of abuse.” Because these domestic workers love the families they care for, they endure bad treatment for a long time before reporting it, said Mercado.
“All domestic workers deserve dignity and respect,” said Calila Martinez, whose mother was a domestic worker.
Nury Francisco, who makes a living as a housekeeper, said the most important aspect of the legislation is that it provides worker’s compensation regardless of the hours worked. “I’ve fallen twice,” she said.
“If the employer doesn’t have insurance and we cut our arm, we can’t keep working.”
Currently, domestic workers must work at least 52 hours and have earned more than $100 in the previous 90 days to receive worker’s compensation. Even if a domestic worker qualifies, the employer may not have secured worker’s compensation for him or her, which is a misdemeanor offense.
Francisco has worked for families that make no food available to her even though the work requires her to remain at the house. AB 889 would allow Francisco to cook her own food at the house where she works.
Both Vasquez and Francisco are hopeful that the bill will pass. Eager to remove obstacles to her work, Francisco said, “That’s why we’re here, to advance ourselves.”