My name is Cristina, but my friends know me as Ate Bingbing. I am a worker leader of the Filipino Advocates for Justice in Oakland. I’ve been a domestic worker since 2009. My life started as a domestic worker when I decided to work abroad because my life was so difficult in the Philippines.
I’ve experienced all aspects of being a domestic worker. I’ve been a nanny, I’ve been a house cleaner, and when I came to the US, I became a homecare worker or private caregiver. There are times when I work mornings as a private caregiver for elderly patients and at night I work as a housecleaner.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I decided to stop working because I have underlying health conditions that put me at special risk. I’m scared to work in the middle of the pandemic because as domestic workers we are not included in any of the health and safety standards that protect workers in other sectors.
Since I’m not working full time, I’ve been focusing on organizing my fellow domestic workers. I see that my fellow homecare workers are out there risking their lives to continue to care for seniors and people most vulnerable to the disease. They are so vulnerable to getting sick with COVID-19 because their employers don’t let them know about positive cases in their client’s homes until too late, and don’t provide them critical personal protective equipment. Domestic workers don’t even have the legal right to those protections. A number of domestic workers in our coalition have contracted the virus at work and sadly a few have now passed away.
I am being forced to choose between two very important things: your livelihood or your health. I am a single mom, and I support my daughter, who I haven’t seen in years ever since I decided to leave the Philippines to look for work abroad. If something happens to me here, I have no idea what will happen to my family or when I will see my child again.
I know the challenges I am experiencing are challenges that thousands of domestic workers are experiencing because we are not included in Cal/OSHA health and safety protections – protections that are even more important when there are calamities like the wildfires and this pandemic.
Now is the time for change. I strongly believe that having workplace health and safety regulations for domestic workers will ensure the health and safety of every home in California.