California Domestic Workers Coalition

On October 1, domestic workers gathered in San Francisco and Los Angeles to protest Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to veto SB 1257 (Durazo), the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, which would have ended the 47-year exclusion of domestic workers from CAL/OSHA, the Occupational Safety Health Act. Domestic workers (nannies, housecleaners and homecare workers) are the only workers who do not have the legal right to a healthy and safe work environment.

Domestic workers held signs with messages like “Governor Newsom, Your Veto is Killing Us” and staged a die-in on the steps of the State Buildings in Los Angeles and San Francisco to dramatize the gravity of their message. Speakers shared what it will mean for their work and their health, for both themselves and their families, that the Governor refused to include them in Cal/OSHA protections, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing wildfire season.

Rosario Mejica, a member leader of Filipino Advocates for Justice, has been a homecare worker in the Bay Area for more than 12 years. “As caregivers, we feel very frustrated with the Governor’s decision,” she said. “We need health and safety protections and training to safely do the essential work of caring for clients and assisting them to live independently in their homes. We won’t stop fighting for this right. We will keep fighting for domestic workers like me who are out on the frontlines now, and for the domestic workers who will come after us.”

Maegan Ortiz, Director of the Institute for Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA)  and member of the California Domestic Workers Coalition was one of the speakers at the action in Los Angeles. “It’s disappointing that even after hearing and reading in the media what it’s like for domestic workers to go without health and safety protections, the Governor decided to allow these inequities and injustices to continue by allowing the ongoing exclusion of domestic workers from Cal/OSHA protections. I’m thinking today about all the workers who will get sick with COVID-19, from exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals or from exposure to wildfire smoke, because the Governor did not take the simple step of including them. We will not let the Governor forget that these illnesses, these injuries and these deaths are now on his hands.”

Domestic work employers also shared their reaction to the Governor’s decision. Elaine Shelley was one of several employers who participated in meetings with legislators to voice her support for the bill. She has disabilities and employs personal care attendants to allow her to live independently. “I want the personal care assistants who come to my home daily to know I remain their committed ally,” she said. “While I remain committed to their safety and dignity, I am deeply saddened that our governor does not share that same commitment. I know that their safety is my safety. Their dignity is my dignity. I will continue in this struggle until those in power understand and acknowledge that.”

Kimberly Alvarenga, Director of the California Domestic Workers Coalition said, “We want to put everyone on notice that this veto doesn’t end our fight. We will be back, with even more support, with even more power, because domestic workers deserve these protections and cannot wait any longer.”