California Domestic Workers Coalition

“As an employer I recognize that my home is a workplace. Our health and safety is intertwined.”

I am a retired government worker now living in the Central Valley of California.  I employ a housecleaner to help me in my home.  Her name is Vicky and like me, she is also a widow and over 60 years old.  Another thing we have in common is our Mexican heritage, and a passion for cumbia music.  On the days Vicky comes, I make sure to tune into a Cumbia station on Pandora.

That brings a bit of fun, but the reality is her job is not a party.  It requires quite a bit of physical activity and places stress on the body. In the summer, I especially worry about heat exhaustion. In the Valley temperatures can rise to an oppressive 111 degrees. One day Vicky arrived from another job and she was clearly experiencing heat exhaustion. We quickly agreed to postpone until another time.  But the previous employer was not willing to postpone.    

As an employer I recognize that my home is a workplace, and I am responsible for making sure workers in my home receive fair pay, paid sick time, and respect. I am responsible for covering them with worker’s compensation insurance. Yet, there are no health and safety rights for the domestic workers in my home.

Photo by Riccardo Stanley Mejía

Our health and safety is intertwined.  Vicky’s work enables me to live comfortably and at ease. I want our employer/worker relationship to allow her the same. Consequently, we use Covid precautions, we agree to use non-toxic cleaning supplies and she is provided paid sick time. Her livelihood depends on her being healthy and injury-free.  If she is injured or impaired while she is working in my home, it hurts us both. 

I am grateful that there were employers that served a critical role in developing the new domestic work Health and Safety recommendations. They worked tirelessly to help provide the tools and resources we need as employers. 

But employers also know we can’t stop there. 

I am one of many that are adamant to help pass legislation that will, once and for all, remove the exclusion of domestic workers from Cal/OSHA health and safety protections.  We know this exclusion is deeply rooted in the legacy of slavery and by extension, racism against Black workers and general labor exploitation.  To do otherwise, would make us complicit.