California Domestic Workers Coalition

My name is Socorro Diaz. I am a leader of ALMAS at Graton Day Laborer Center and the California Domestic Workers Coalition. I have been working as a house cleaner for 16 years.

I want to tell you about my experience with the fires in Santa Rosa so that you can see why we domestic workers need and deserve health and safety protections.

Right after the fires, I started working cleaning houses that were in the fire zones. They were houses that had been evacuated by their owners, and lot of smoke and ash had entered inside the homes. I knew it might be dangerous, but I had to work because my family really needed the money. 

I cleaned houses like this for two weeks, but very quickly I began to feel sick. I got a bad headache that lasted for months after, and I have never suffered from headaches. My skin became extremely dry and my eyes burned. One day while cleaning, I started to feel this terrible burning and itching on my face, and soon after, my nose started to bleed. This had never happened to me, but it was because I had spent a week cleaning these houses and inhaling all this dust and ash. I bought my own mask and cleaning gloves to use. My employers never gave me any protective equipment or explained the dangers of the job.

I also started having breathing problems. I went to a clinic, and they asked if I was a smoker. They said my lungs looked like the lungs of a smoker because I had been exposed to so much smoke at work.

It is important that we include domestic workers in Cal/OSHA protections because occupational safety and health is not a luxury; it is a necessity and right of all workers. Imagine, if we had made this change to the law ten years ago? How many of us would not have been hurt or gotten sick at work? Now is the time to make this change.