An Ode to Nicky Diaz Santillan

Monday, October 04, 2010

By Lisa Russ
Attorney Gloria Allred, left, escorts Nicandra Diaz Santillan
after a news conference at Allred's office in which she
said Meg Whitman's former housekeeper was
"exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally
and financially abused." (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times 
/ September 29, 2010)
FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The airwaves in California have been dominated by images of a teary immigrant housekeeper claiming she was mistreated by her billionaire employer and turned away when she asked for citizenship help.

It's far from the message Republican Meg Whitman wants to send to the state's crucial Latino voting bloc as she runs for governor.

Thank you Nicky Diaz Santillan!  Thank you for showing us that Meg Whitman is even more foolish, selfish and small-minded close-up than she is from afar.

While money can't buy happiness or, apparently, good judgment, it does give you the ability to treat your employees fairly--in this case, the person you depend on to help raise your kids and run your home.

Nicky Diaz Santillan is Meg Whitman's former nanny and housekeeper who just announced that she is undocumented, and after years of mistreatment by the Whitman's, was recently fired when she made her immigration status explicit.

Meg could have gotten Nicky excellent lawyers to help her secure papers. Instead of threatening to terminate her for taking time off after she had a baby, Meg could have granted Nicky a generous maternity the paid 12 weeks that most working people in California receive.   She could have hired a temporary replacement, paid them both fair wages, and never, ever missed the money.

But she didn't. Not because she couldn't. Not because she doesn't believe that people who don't have papers shouldn't have the chance to work (apparently she employed Nicky while she knew that she was undocumented), but because she exploited Nicky's status and used it to control her.

So, in our state, where we leave most the hard work (like growing our food) to recent immigrants, we left this dangerous and difficult job to Nicky Diaz Santillan--the job of showing us what Meg Whitman really values.

Here is a summary from the LA Times of the events in question:

Diaz Santillan said she was hired to work 15 hours a week for $23 an hour, but alleges that her house-cleaning duties quickly expanded to looking after Whitman's children and running family errands, forcing her to work well beyond the agreed time.

She alleged that Whitman refused to pay her for the extra hours or reimburse her for the miles she was driving in her own car.

Speaking to reporters after an appearance at Cisco's offices in San Jose, Whitman denied mistreating Diaz Santillan. The candidate said she never disclosed the situation because "it never came up" and she didn't see any reason to make an example of someone she considered "a member of our extended family.""As soon as we found that she was an illegal immigrant, we did what we had to do as an employer and let her go," Whitman said.

"We were stunned, just amazed," Whitman said. "We said, 'Gosh, Nicky, we're going to have to let you go. That is our legal obligation as an employer. We're going to have to let you go.' She never came back to work after that Saturday."

Diaz Santillan recounted events differently. She said she asked for Whitman's help to find an immigration attorney. Whitman promised to look into the matter, Diaz Santillan said.

Four days later, Diaz Santillan said, Whitman called and told her, "We cannot do anything for you," and fired her.

"She said, 'I cannot help you and don't say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job and that you want to go to school, and from now on, you don't know me and I do not know you. You never have seen me and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?' " Diaz Santillan, dabbing away tears, recalled Whitman saying.

"I was shocked and hurt that Ms. Whitman would treat me this way after nine years," Diaz Santillan said. "I realized at that moment that she did not appreciate my work. She was throwing me away like a piece of garbage."

If that's how Meg Whitman treats someone she considered a member of her extended family, I don't want to wait and see how she treats the rest of us. Thank you Nicky, for taking on another hard job. May we honor the risk you took by continuing bold action to support undocumented immigrants as workers, friends and family.

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