by Lynda Berg, CLUE-LA Intern
I was able to join our friends at CHIRLA and Pilipino Worker Center recently as we took a trip up to Sacramento for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Lobby Day. It was a whirlwind day, there and back in less than 30 hours; but it was an incredible time of hearing the testimony of so many domestic workers who have been left out of the Labor Laws that protect workers in other industries. This exclusion, I learned, has its roots in slavery. Slave states blocked efforts for both domestic workers and farm workers to be included in labor laws, in an attempt to keep the status quo of exploitation. Now so many years later, sisters and brothers in jobs such as assisted living caregivers, nannies, house cleaners, and more are fighting for the basic rights afforded to other workers in the state of California. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, AB 889, calls for requests such as: meal and rest breaks, sick days, and the right to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep for live-in caregivers.
In Sacramento we met with many other domestic worker coalitions from around the state who are organizing together. Also present was Hand in Hand, a group that organizes employers of domestic workers to rally behind the wellbeing of those women and men who take care of their loved ones. We were joined as well by members of CLUE-Eastbay, including Rev. Deborah Lee, Rev. Larry Emery, and Rabbi Catherine. In a press conference before the hearing of the Assembly Labor Committee, Rev. Deborah led a blessing in which I was able to participate. We blessed the hands of the workers in their daily work and struggle for justice. I felt as though I were actually receiving the blessing as these incredible women stood with their hands open to our outstretched hands.
Over 200 people turned up in support of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. We each filed through the hearing to add our support and filled the halls outside the room. AB 889 passed the Labor Committee, not with the four votes as expected, but with a unanimous vote of the Committee! There are many phases still for the DW Bill of Rights to pass through, but this was an encouraging step in the direction of liberation for so many unseen workers.
You can find our more about this fight for dignity and respect at the National Domestic Workers Alliance website.