The California Domestic Workers Coalition organizes and advocates for the rights of over 325,000 domestic workers who work as nannies, house cleaners and caregivers for the young, infirm, elderly and disabled people in homes across the state.
"Care work is sacred work. Care workers take care of our most precious people and things,” explains Director Kimberly Alvarenga. And while care work is the fastest growing industry in the country, domestic workers remain one of the most exploited, undervalued and unprotected workers in California.
The California Domestic Worker Coalition is on a mission to change hearts, minds and laws so that our society and economy can begin valuing the work of care and respecting the workers who are predominantly immigrant women of color.
Their vision is simple: Care jobs should be living wage jobs. Domestic workers should have the same benefits and protections that workers in other industries have. Not more, not less.
“Our vision is that women who do this work do not have to fight to be included in basic rights. They have an economic security net. They are able to negotiate, have a contract, and an equal employer-employee relationship where the employer values their work, treats them as professionals, and respects their personal and occupational boundaries," said Alvarenga.
“I'm thinking of domestic worker families who would be able to take a day off when their families become ill, have better access to education, have better access to healthcare. In many ways, their whole lives would be changed. That's what we envision, a world where domestic work is valued, is respected.”
While domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible, they are earning poverty wages. UCLA’s survey of 500 caregivers found the median hourly rate was $14.50, while those paid a flat rate earned a median of $9.17 an hour. In one of the state’s most shocking wage theft cases, Filipino women at a “board and care” chain were making as little as $2.40 an hour.
Undervaluing of this essential work has its origins in slavery and racism. In 1938, domestic workers were written out of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which granted minimum wage and overtime protections to all U.S. workers. Southern lawmakers refused to pass the Act unless two groups were excluded: farmworkers and domestic workers.
“This legacy of exclusion is rooted in this country's legacy of enslavement and racism. When this country was founded, the women who did this work were Black women. So we continue with this legacy. Now it is women of other nationalities—immigrant women from many nationalities—that do this work.”
Today, 95 percent of domestic workers are women and majority of them are women or color and immigrant women. A significant number of them are undocumented. Because this work is almost exclusively done by women and because it’s done in private homes, it is perceived as "help" and not as a real profession. The state has established no labor guidelines for this workforce, and most private individuals who employ them do not see themselves—or act—as employers, which is what they are.