SACRAMENTO – A recent survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found Black and immigrant members have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- State Senator Maria Elena Durazo is hoping to expand CAL/OSHA protections through Senate Bill 1257
- Durazo, who represents parts of Los Angeles, is fighting to provide these safeguards for domestic workers across the state
- There are 300,000 domestic workers employed by private homes in California
- SB 1257 has passed the Senate floor and the Labor and Employment Committee in the Assembly
Under California’s current labor codes, employees such as housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers do not have any safeguards in the workplace. State Senator Maria Elena Durazo is hoping to expand CAL/OSHA protections through Senate Bill 1257.
Senator Durazo said during California’s recent wildfires, many workers were put at risk because employers failed to tell them the homes where they work were under mandatory evacuation.
Rosa Cruz, who cleans homes in Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica, said she’s extremely concerned about the lack of protections at work, especially as California wildfires and COVID-19 continue to worsen in the area.
“I felt insecure and scared,” said Cruz, as she described going to work during last year’s Getty fire off the 405 freeway.
Cruz explained she wasn’t told not to show up to work, and said she couldn’t afford to lose a paycheck. She felt it was necessary to put her life in danger in order to get paid.
“My eyes were watery, my face was covered in ash,” said Cruz, while describing what it was like cleaning up the aftermath of the fire.
Cruz also said that another one of her concerns is the lack of PPE provided by her employer. According to Cruz, the owners of one of the homes she cleaned didn’t provide her with a mask.
Cruz noted that she is unable to report these problems because she doesn’t have the same protections as most employees. However, State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who represents parts of Los Angeles, is fighting to provide these safeguards for domestic workers across the state through the Health and Safety for All Workers Act.
According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, there are currently over 300,000 domestic workers who are employed as housekeepers, nannies and caregivers in private homes in California.
“We want to make sure, especially now in the pandemic, that they feel comfortable in raising these issues in the places where they work,” Durazo said.
She said the fight to get domestic workers the proper protections is personal.
“These domestic workers remind me of my own parents, remind me of when our whole family rolled up and down California to work in the fields. This is hard work. Let’s acknowledge it, let’s respect it,” Durazo added.
Durazo is calling on the legislature and Governor Newsom to pass Senate Bill 1257, which would eliminate the household domestic service exclusion under the state’s labor code.
“It is part of our country’s history of racism. In the 1930’s, when domestic work that was previously performed by slaves was being performed primarily by African Americans, we excluded this work,” said the senator.
She pointed out that now it’s mostly immigrant women doing these jobs, and she believes it is time for them to be included in the law.
“We rely on them to be able to carry out everything else in our life. So, it’s only fair that they have those rights and protections,” Durazo added.
Some of her senate colleagues have raised concerns about the bill and the fact that many homeowners do not see their houses as a normal workplace. Durazo said the employee and employer relationship already exists, so there must be added regulations around health and safety.
“It would be a great sigh of relief for us to have these protections,” Cruz added.
So far, SB 1257 has passed the Senate floor and the Labor and Employment Committee in the Assembly. It is now headed to the Assembly floor for a vote.
Let Inside the Issues know your thoughts and watch Monday through Friday at 8 and 11 p.m. on Spectrum News 1.