The banner of a documentary film on domestic workers.

Mirna Arana, a 33-year-old house cleaner from Guatemala, was newly married and pregnant with her first child on the morning of 2017 when she arrived at 6 a.m. to clean for clients who were moving. She lifted heavy boxes, moved furniture and vacuumed for hours.

“I felt some very strong pains, and I asked my employer to please let me leave at 5 p.m. … ” Arana tells the interviewer in the 30-minute documentary “Dignidad: California Domestic Workers’ Journey for Justice,” which will be screened tonight at 7 p.m. at the Brava Theater.

“And he said, ‘no, you guys came here to work. Now why don’t you want to work?”

Afraid of losing her job, she kept working, but by the time she arrived home, the bleeding started and soon after, she lost her child. 

Screenshot from the documentary “Dignidad: California Domestic Workers’ Journey for Justice.”

Arana’s story is one of several in the film that documents the triumphant journey of Arana and others to get legislation that brought domestic workers under Occupational Health and Safety Act standards. Produced by the University of California, Davis, Environmental Health Center, the producers interview frontline domestic workers, campaign leaders, professors, and California State senator María Elena Durazo, a former labor leader who helped write the legislation. 

The screening is presented by the California Domestic Workers Coalition.

“In a way, domestic workers are invisible,” Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Medicine, says in the film. “They are hidden away in homes.” 

The group, composed largely of women of color and undocumented workers, was also excluded from the state’s health and safety protections under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act.

A 2021 report found that more than two million homes rely on the essential labor of house cleaners, nannies and home attendants. The pandemic put them at higher risk of catching Covid-19.

“Domestic workers suffered triple the risk of getting COVID-19 compared with the general population in California,”  the report concluded.

Screenshot from the documentary “Dignidad: California Domestic Workers’ Journey for Justice.”

Rock Delgado, a caregiver in Los Angeles profiled in the documentary, believes he got covid in April, 2020, while attending a brain-tumor patient in the hospital. 

“I told them already that the Covid-19 is surging. Please wear your mask. But they were not aware of that,” said Delgado. “I am wearing a mask, but that’s not enough. We have so many visitors.”

He was diagnosed with covid on April 8, 2020, and was intubated for 20 days.

In today’s screening, members of California Domestic Workers Coalition will give context to the film with a short introduction, and share what has happened since the film was produced after the screening. Inti Batey, a music group, will also be there to close out the night.

In addition to the screening tonight, the documentary is currently airing on PBS stations nationwide and is also available online.

Dignidad Film Screening
Date: Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023
Time: 7 to 9 p.m. (Doors at 6 p.m.)
Location: Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St.

The event is free, but you can reserve a spot here

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INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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