On August 27th, the California State Assembly voted in favor of SB 1257, the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, with 58 votes in favor and 12 votes against.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by the California Domestic Workers Coalition, Worksafe, Equal Rights Advocates, California Employment Lawyers Association, and AFSCME-UDW and authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Senate District 24), seeks to end the historic exclusion of “household domestic service” employees from Cal/OSHA protections. The bill requires that domestic worker employers provide their employees with a safe working environment, as is required in all other industries.
Norma Erika Torres, who has been sharing her experience as a house cleaner, in meetings with legislators, shared her reaction to the legislative victory. “It makes me so happy that the legislature passed SB 1257 because it means that they know that we domestic workers are not machines, we are human beings and we too get sick and injured if we don’t have health and safety protections at work,” she said. “I lived through the experience of cleaning houses that were severely damaged in the last round of fires, of breathing in smoke and ash without gloves or a mask, so this means a lot to me. Now I hope that our employers and the larger society will see that domestic workers are indeed real workers and will value our work.”
Senator Maria Elena Durazo, author of the bill, had this to say about its passage through the legislature. “The COVID-19 health pandemic and the current catastrophic California wildfires, have made it devastatingly clear that domestic workers’ health, and their very lives, are in danger because they are excluded from Cal/OSHA. The pandemic has exposed the grave health inequities of our State, with black and immigrant low wage workers disproportionately bearing the health and economic impacts of the crisis. We cannot allow for these essential workers, who are holding up our economy, to go without basic health and safety protections when they go to work, whether they are working during a pandemic, cleaning homes in the wake of the fires or dealing with workplace hazards in more “normal” times. I’m gratified to see that my colleagues in the Legislature understand this and moved SB1257 forward. I hope that Governor Newsom will hear the voices and concerns of these workers, and do the same.”
Following the bill’s passage from the Assembly floor, Renee Salcedo, who organizes with domestic workers as part of the Women’s Action and Solidarity Alliance of the Graton Day Labor Project, stated, “domestic workers desperately need health and safety protections. As we speak, these brave women are assisting homeowners here in Sonoma County with their evacuation needs, yet even in the midst of this crisis, we have been organizing, pushing our elected leaders to take action. Now SB1257 will go to the desk of the Governor and we are calling on him to do what’s right and protect the workers of this crucial industry from harm at the workplace.”
For more information about the campaign, please visit www.cadomesticworkers.org.
The CDWC is a statewide coalition of organizations working to advance the dignity and respect for Domestic Workers and their families. The organizations that are a part of our steering committee include: ALMAS of the Graton Day Labor Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur California (IDEPSCA), Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Pilipino Workers Center, and The Women’s Collective of Dolores Street Community Services.