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Contacts: Alexandra Early, firstname.lastname@example.org California Domestic Workers Coalition (CDWC) 617-816-4260 W
Domestic Workers are Frontline Workers and Deserve Health and Safety Now! CA Domestic Workers Launch Campaign to Pass SB 1257, the Health and Safety for All Workers Act!
Three weeks after Governor Gavin Newsom announced a shelter in place order for California, California Domestic Workers continue to work on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring that vulnerable seniors and other people susceptible to the illness stay safe, home, and out of a strained medical system. However, domestic workers themselves remain excluded from even the most basic health and safety protections, putting their own health at risk while providing essential care. In response, on Wednesday, April 8, domestic worker leaders held a virtual press conference to announce the launch of a campaign to pass Senate Bill 1257 (Durazo), which would end the exclusion of domestic workers from protections granted by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA). Domestic workers and other household workers, like day laborers, are the only workers not protected by CAL/OSHA. The press conference was transmitted on Facebook Live to an audience of over a hundred domestic workers and their allies, who tweeted and posted photos of themselves with signs in support of SB 1257.
Lee Plaza, a caregiver leader at the Pilipino Worker Center in Los Angeles, started off the press conference sharing what it is like for homecare workers like her to work without health and safety training or protective equipment, especially during this public health crisis. Right now with Covid19 I fear for my health and the health of others in my community,” said Plaza. “ I know that if I get sick or injured at work and have to stop working, I don’t have the protection other workers have, like a good health insurance plan or paid sick leave. We homecare workers, we can’t just stay home, we are essential to keeping the sick and elderly out of our overburdened hospitals, but we need to be taken care of as well.”
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Senate District 24) also spoke about why she is moving this legislation. “Domestic workers have been excluded from basic labor protections and health and safety protections for far too long,” said Senator Durazo. “Domestic workers have been excluded from basic labor laws, including health and safety protections, for far too long. In the midst of the current COVID19 public health crisis this exclusion can have life and death consequences. Domestic workers are essential workers, now more than ever, and they should be treated with the dignity and respect of other workers. Their safety and the safety of the broader community depends on the health and wellbeing of these workers who are out on the frontlines, taking care of our elderly, our children and our homes.”
At the press conference, Socorro Diaz, a leader with ALMAS, a program of the Graton Day Laborer Center in Sonoma County, talked about the health and safety risks she faced working as a house cleaner upon returning from evacuation during the 2018 fires in Northern California.
“Right after the fires I started working cleaning houses that were in the fire zones and whose owners had evacuated. These were houses in which a lot of smoke and ash had entered, and the air was still extremely smoky outside. ” said Diaz. “I knew it might be dangerous, but I had to work because my family needed the money. Almost immediately I started getting headaches, itchy eyes, nose bleeds and later I started having trouble breathing at night. We need this law to create awareness among our employers that they have to provide us with a healthy workplace. Imagine, if we had made this change to the law ten years ago, how many of us would not have been hurt or gotten sick at work?”
This legislative campaign seeks to impact thousands of California families and builds on over a decade of worker-led advocacy by the California Domestic Workers Coalition and its allies. There are over 300,000 domestic workers who work as housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers in private homes in California, yet household workers have been categorically excluded from basic health and safety protections provided by CAL/OSHA. During these statewide crises as well as every day,domestic workers have to make the impossible choice between working in unsafe conditions or going without any income.
The Health and Safety for All Workers Act, SB 1257, would remove the exclusion of domestic workers from CAL/OSHA, so that domestic workers can have the same legal right as other workers to health and safety training and protective equipment and to be protected against retaliation when they advocate for their own health and safety at work. The bill’s co-sponsors include the California Employment Lawyers Association, Equal Rights Advocates and Worksafe.
“We have mobilized today, across California from our own homes, and from the homes where we work, to say that we can no longer leave workers behind, stated California Domestic Workers Coalition Director Kimberly Alvarenga. “Not in the times of crisis. Not when domestic workers are on the front lines, making sure our homes are safe and healthy and that seniors and other vulnerable groups stay out of hospitals and thus further overwhelm our overburdened healthcare system. Now more than ever we can see that the health and safety of every household and every worker is inextricably linked. Now It’s time to make a change!”
For more information about the campaign, please visit our campaigns page