CA Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 889)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

By Mina Itabashi

Policemen on horses are daunting, especially when they're talking down to you from on top of a large, neighing animal. But even as these police stomped around us and tried to cut off our march, we continued on around the the California State Capitol. We chanted in unison, "Mujeres, unidas, ¡jamás serán vencidas!

Yesterday, allies from all across the state came together in Sacramento to demand the passage of AB 889, the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. This bill is absolutely necessary especially because domestic workers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, meaning that they aren't able to collectively bargain for their basic rights.

This bill makes the following 5 basic demands (adapted from the National Domestic Workers Alliance):
  • Equal overtime pay. Currently, personal attendants are excluded from overtime rights and live-in domestic workers receive less protection under overtime laws. 
  • Equal right to worker’s compensation. Domestic workers are carved-out of California’s worker’s compensation laws when they work in private households less than 52 hours or earn less than $100 in the previous 90 days. 
  • Equal right to reporting time pay. Personal attendants currently have no right to reporting time pay, when they show up to work and their employer cancels the job.
  • Right to 8 hours uninterrupted sleep under adequate conditions. No law currently guarantees domestic workers the right to uninterrupted sleep. Domestic workers often labor around the clock placing themselves and the people they care for at risk of sickness and unintentional mistakes caused by exhaustion.  
  • Right to cook one’s own food. Unlike most California workers, domestic workers are often confined to the home of their employer and are forced to eat food that is unhealthy or not to their liking.
Throughout the day, I kept on soaking up all the positive energy that I was surrounded with. The morning caravan organized by the National Domestic Worker's Alliance involved much laughter and a dance party that made the ride from Oakland to Sacramento seem way too short. The driver wanted us to quieten down a bit, but the energy kept on building up as each of us on the bus introduced ourselves and spoke about why we came out for the rally.

The day was awesomely organized by the California Domestic Workers Coalition, a broad alliance including the Graton Day Labor Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Filipino Advocates for Justice, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Pilipino Workers Center, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), and the Women’s Collective of La Raza Centro Legal. The rally was actually titled the "Children and Families Day at the Capitol," and really, it was like a block party overflowing with a strong sense of community and solidarity. There was a press conference, flash mob, activities for children, and street theater by organizations such as the Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California. And lots and lots of balloons. It was inspiring to see so many domestic workers speak up about their experiences of being underpaid, exploited, or even abused by their employers.

The participation by children was incredible, and emphasized the importance of activism across generations. Above is a video of a daughter of a domestic worker speaking up for the rights of her mother. And for those who're sad about missing out on the flash mob, you can still learn the dance and share the love! Here's the instructional video.

The push for this bill continues! You can sign a petition here to support it, so that California can be the second state (after New York) to pass a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. It's our chance to set an example for the whole country!

Mina is a summer intern at Forward Together, a proud Japanese American raised all over east and southeast Asia. She embraces her identity as a womyn of color and doesn't believe in borders.