California Domestic Workers Coalition

Carolyn Said

Mirna Arana was pregnant and didn’t feel well. But if she didn’t clean houses, she wouldn’t get paid. So she went to work. She kept cleaning even as cramps racked her body. Then she began to bleed and eventually miscarried.

House cleaners, nannies and others who work in private homes rarely get paid sick leave, sometimes forcing them to choose between their health and their paycheck. Now San Francisco is poised to become the first city in the nation to create a way for domestic workers to have paid sick days, via an ordinance being introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Hillary Ronen and co-sponsor Myrna Melgar.

The measure, called “Domestic workers equal access to paid sick leave,” would establish a portable paid sick leave benefit that would allow people who work for multiple households to earn slivers of paid sick leave from each employer and then consolidate them.

“This innovative, first-of-its-kind ordinance will bring equity and access to sick time to domestic workers,” said Kimberly Alvarenga, executive director of the California Domestic Workers Coalition, which will hold a rally and news conference across the street from City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to support the measure. “This essential workforce is especially vulnerable. During the pandemic, it became clear that they don’t have an economic safety net.”