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Household Workers

Posted on Dec 11, 2009
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Domestic Workers TrainingOn Saturday, June 13, 2009, in a grade school auditorium in San Francisco, over 100 Bay Area house cleaners, nannies, and caregivers met to help set priorities for possible legislation to ensure greater rights and better treatment for these often forgotten workers.

Domestic workers themselves have driven the campaign in California, assisted by attorneys from legal aid organizations, including Worksafe. The workers hope to achieve the same rights for domestic workers that others take for granted, including the right to overtime, paid vacation and sick days, workers’ compensation, and Cal/OSHA coverage. 

They are also fighting to win basic human rights such as the right to five hours of uninterrupted sleep for live-in caregivers, and the right to cook one’s own food when the worker prepares meals for a client.

The campaign has gained momentum and a new heroine with the story of Vilma Serralta, a 71-year-old domestic worker who, in October 2009, settled her federal lawsuit against a wealthy Bay Area couple after working over 80 hours a week for four years as a live-in housekeeper and nanny in Atherton for Sakhawat and Roomy Khan. The Khans paid Serralta less than $4 per hour with no overtime pay, in violation of numerous state and federal laws. Read a news article (PDF) about Vilma's ordeal and ultimate victory.

Scores of domestic workers from California and across the country gathered again from November 13-15, 2009 at the National Domestic Workers Alliance Western Regional Congress in Oakland, CA. Groups participated in informative workshops and began discussing a legislative campaign to promote a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in California.

The workers and legal aid advocates, including Worksafe, collaborated and organized for weeks into the new year to create the bill of rights and draft legislation to implement it. Given the tough fiscal and political climate in Sacramento, the Coalition has decided to pursue legislation in a future legislative session, but has created a resolution recognizing the legacy of shameful treatment of domestic workers, and calling for greater legal protections that will bestow respect on these workers who have been excluded from other worker-protective legislation for almost a century. The Coalition hopes to pass the resolution through the California legislature in 2010.

The lead organizations of the California Household Worker Rights Coalition include the following membership-led groups in Los Angeles and the Bay Area:

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