My name is Paula Sandoval. I am a member leader of Mujeres Unidas y Activas in the Bay Area and a mother of three. I have been a housecleaner in Oakland, California for more than 6 years, and I am a leader of the Fair Work, Clean Homes campaign.
I want to share a story that shows a very common pattern in our industry. I worked for a woman, which we now define as a “Dueña de Ruta” or a route owner, who manages an informal team of housecleaners. There were four of us, and every day, we had to be at the owner’s house at 8 in the morning. From her house, she took us to clean a minimum of 6 houses per day.
They were huge houses, in the wealthy neighborhoods of Oakland, and she always made us do the hardest jobs – cleaning the enormous kitchens, the bathrooms, using powerful chemicals like bleach – while she did the lighter tasks.
We returned every night at 9 pm to her house. We would work for 12 hours or more, but she only paid us $10 an hour for no more than 8 hours total. This means that I received only $80 for a 12-hour day of heavy work.
In addition, she did not give us any rest breaks, not even the opportunity to use the bathroom. We rushed from one house to another, and she only gave us 15-20 minutes to have lunch, all squeezed into the car, under the hot sun in Oakland.
During that time, I did not know that Oakland’s minimum wage was already $ 12.25 an hour, and as a housecleaner, I did not know that I was entitled to overtime time after 8 hours.
It was thanks to Mujeres Unidas y Activas that I learned my rights. MUA is doing the work on the issues that immigrant women face, and through MUA, I learned my rights both as a worker and as an immigrant.
These trainings give me the strength to not be afraid and to organize others.
There are so many workers like me who do not know how work conditions should be. Because of the nature of domestic work, it’s difficult to find information or know where to go when an issue arise.
That is why I organize, so that we can collectively change the culture and the conditions of domestic work.