California Domestic Workers Coalition

On September 29, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 1257 (Durazo), thereby denying California’s 300,000 domestic workers the right to workplace health and safety protections, which are critical to keeping workers healthy and safe at work, especially with the increased hazards of wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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), would have ended  the historic exclusion of “household domestic service” employees from Cal/OSHA protections and required domestic work employers to provide their employees with a safe working environment, as is required in all other industries.

Domestic workers across the state reacted with sadness and frustration to the Governor’s decision to veto the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, which passed with broad support through the State legislature. “I feel very sad,” said Anabel Garcia, a domestic worker leader with ALMAS (the Women’s Action and Solidarity Alliance) who cleaned houses in the aftermath of the 2018 fires in Sonoma County. “I feel that the governor is abandoning our community when we need him the most. Just like other workers, we domestic workers have families that depend on us and are waiting for us at the end of the day to make sure that we come home safe. We’ve been telling our stories and sharing what it’s like to be excluded from so many protections, like unemployment benefits that other workers receive and Cal/OSHA protections that would help us weather this pandemic. I don’t know how the Governor could hear our stories and still decide that we don’t deserve to be safe and healthy at work.”

Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who authored the bill, had this to say: “I am extremely disappointed by the Governor’s veto of SB 1257 to protect domestic workers, who are so essential to the California economy and to the ability of Californians to live independently. They deserve health and safety protections, just like any other working person. We will keep fighting until their health and safety is guaranteed.”

Kimberly Alvarenga, director of the California Domestic Workers Coalition, expressed her shock at the Governor’s decision: “The Governor said at a recent press conference for essential workers that ‘you can’t live a good life in an unjust society’, and that we have to reconcile the disparities that persist, but with this veto Governor Newsom has decided to allow injustice and inequality to continue by allowing the exclusion of domestic workers from Cal/OSHA protections.” She continued, “SB 1257 would have brought dignity and recognition to one of the most essential workforces in the country and provided them something concrete- access to personal protective gear, health and safety training and information about hazards on the job.  We will continue to fight to advance the dignity of low wage immigrant women workers and that means ensuring that they have the same health and safety protections as all other workers.”