FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug 1, 2023
Contact: Daniela Perez, [email protected]
National Domestic Workers Alliance, Care in Action, Dreamers’ Mothers in Action, Hand in Hand, and domestic workers gathered in person at a roundtable with Senator Tim Kaine to discuss the challenges faced by domestic workers and a proposal for a National Domestic Worker Bill of Rights
RICHMOND – On Tuesday, Aug. 1, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Care in Action, Dreamers’ Mothers in Action, Hand in Hand, and local domestic workers hosted a roundtable discussion with Senator Tim Kaine to highlight the essential contributions of domestic workers in our communities and the challenges they face in the workplace due to the decades of exclusions from basic workplace protections.
At the roundtable were the following participants:
Yanet Limon-Amado, Virginia State Director for Care in Action, started the roundtable discussion by introducing herself and sharing her story as the daughter of a domestic worker in Virginia. Following her introductions, each worker and speaker introduced themselves in their preferred language. While interpretation was present, Senator Kaine, who is bilingual, transitioned seamlessly between Spanish and English among the domestic workers.
“The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights offered new protections to many of these women sitting around this table,” said Yanet Limon, Virginia State Director of Care in Action. “But now, we want to take it to the national level. These folks are part of the essential backbone of taking care of our elders or children.”
Throughout the roundtable discussion, each worker – Marjorie Majorenos, Elsa Galvan, and Amalia Salvador – shared their experiences as domestic workers in the DMV. Additionally, Antonia Peña shared her experience as a domestic worker, an organizer, and a co-director of the DMV chapter.
In 2021, Virginia was the first state in the South to pass a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. In late 2022, Washington, D.C. joined the list of cities with a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. While local protections are in place, the workers agree that these protections should be extended to all workers nationwide. Additionally, with federal protections, enforcement of the local bills would be more feasible, as many domestic workers and domestic worker employers in states that have passed similar legislation have yet to be informed about such protections.
“A lo largo de estos años, he conocido a muchas personas maravillosas y he formado parte de familias que me han acogido con generosidad. Sin embargo, también he enfrentado dificultades y desafíos en el camino,’ shared Amalia Salvador. “Trabajamos largas horas, dedicando tiempo y esfuerzo para asegurarnos de que los hogares sean acogedores y cuidados. Sin embargo, la remuneración y las condiciones laborales no siempre reflejan el valor de nuestro trabajo, a pesar de que lo hagamos con amor y cariño.”
Translation: “Throughout these years, I have met many wonderful people and been a part of families who have welcomed me generously. However, I have also faced difficulties and challenges along the way,” shared Amalia Salvador. “We work long hours, dedicating time and effort to ensure homes are welcoming and cared for. However, the compensation and working conditions do not always reflect the value of our work, even though we do it with love and affection.”
Additionally, Amalia shared that since Virginia passed the Bill of Rights, she informed her employer about the new legislation. As a result, she received her first paid vacation since starting domestic work in 1998. She’s now entitled to sick leave, too. She hopes this can become a reality for all domestic workers in the country, who have traditionally been left out of these necessary protections and benefits.
“El año pasado, le explique a la señora que cuido sobre la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadores del Hogar y me pagaba los dias que iba a organizar, y me empezo a pagar vacaciones cuando paso la carta de derechos local. Por primera vez, tengo vacaciones y dias de enfermedad,” she said.
Translation: “Last year, I explained to the lady I care about the National Alliance of Domestic Workers, and she started paying me for the days I went to organize, and she began providing paid vacations after the Virginia Domestic Worker Bill of Rights passage. For the first time, I have vacations and sick days,”
In addition to expressing concern with long hours, lack of proper breaks, and the lack of medical protections, workers are house cleaners raised about how harmful certain chemicals are and the lack of personal protective equipment offered to them when they’re invited to homes that are particularly difficult to clean. Housecleaners often have to buy protective equipment, which adds an extra cost to already undervalued work. Ingrid Vaca, a domestic worker and member of the Dreamers’ Mothers in Action and NDWA – who joined to support the other workers – shared that a few of the domestic workers she’s met have developed allergies and, in some instances, cancer.
Virginia Ashby Sharpe, a caregiver to her 91-year-mother in Richmond, shared her perspective as a domestic worker-employer. With Sharpe’s mother’s desire to age in place, the family will employ domestic home and healthcare workers for support.
“These domestic workers support life-saving care for elders and for people with disabilities that allow our loved ones to live independently and with dignity,” Sharpe said. “The skill, care, and emotion it takes to do this work should be compensated.
At the end of the roundtable, the workers closed by sharing that they fear their futures due to their immigration status and their lack of retirement and medical benefits.
Senator Kaine, who introduced a bill to support the direct care workforce & family caregivers, closed the conversation by sharing that his team will analyze the National Domestic Worker Bill of Rights during August Recess before making a decision, signaling continued conversations with NDWA and partners.
Care in Action is the policy and advocacy home for women who care, working on behalf of more than two million domestic workers and care workers across America. Among the fastest-growing sectors in our economy, domestic workers are also among the most vulnerable and undervalued. As a mostly women and majority women of color workforce, this growing constituency consistently and overwhelmingly supports progressive values in American political life. Learn more at www.careinaction.us.