Domestic Workers Want a Break

En Español.

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.”

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One Comment

  1. I have read many and heard many stories of individuals working directly with families in providing care in the home. Under these circumstances, families who hire someone directly may not understand the minimum levels of support and protection to their directly hired help.
    Our company, provides for the best coverages for our employees while helping accomplish the goals the family may have to bring someone into the home to care for a loved one. We employ all of our staff, provide them with insurances, protections and pay far above minimum wage. We care about our employees, because with out them, we would not be able to help our clients stay home.
    This bill will INCREASE the cost of care for our clients. Driving up the cost will lead to more and more families hiring someone directly, without understanding how to protect the care worker and the family. This will result in more and more people being hired ‘under the table’ and will also result in a loss of tax revenue for the government.

    I am not so concerned about lost taxes or families managing caregivers as much as I am concerned about those workers who will get mistreated by families who dont have the coverages that are designed to protect the workers in the home. Furthermore, this bill will create worse working conditions in the home. Clients will be limited in the care they can receive and care workers will be limited by the laws and limitations this bill presents. This will be devastating for each client and caretaker who works in the in home care industry.
    there already exists a robust underground economy in home care where neither the consumer nor the worker has any protections against financial, physical, or emotional abuse. The underground economy has no oversight, taxes are not paid, liability is not covered, and it often leads to one side taking advantage of the other. If the cost of home care is drastically increased, as proposed in AB 889, then the price difference between legitimate home care companies and the underground option will widen and the underground economy will dramatically grow, at a detriment to all stakeholders involved.

    The only ones who benefit from the passing of this bill is the SEIU. They are the major backers of this bill and are fighting to push this through. They want workers to be registered in a state database so they can collect union dues!! Dont be fooled by who is writing these bills. This will be just as devastating for the workers as it will be for the seniors who depend on their care. This bill will kill thousands of legitimate jobs across the state of California.

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