A week and a half ago, the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB 241) was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now just a couple steps away from Governor Brown’s desk. 2011 Women’s Policy Institute graduates, Katie Joaquin (Campaign Coordinator, CA Domestic Workers Coalition) and Claudia Reyes (Worker Labor Rights Organizer, Mujeres Unidas y Activas) discuss their involvement in this state-wide movement during its most critical juncture.
Katie Joaquin: How long have you been involved in the campaign for the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and what is your personal connection to this work?
Claudia Reyes: I’ve been involved since we introduced the first bill in 2006. We began with hosting workshops for our members to discuss the importance of creating this legislation. It was important for the workers to feel empowered to fight for their rights while doing such isolating work. My personal connection to this movement started when I was very young. Like many families, my parents relied on a caregiver to take care of me and my siblings during the summers. Actually, my first job in the United States was caring for a child. However, my inspiration for winning this campaign is my mother. She was a caregiver, and went through a lot of abuse, to earn money for our family. She received no overtime pay for working 14 to 16 consecutive days and she slept on an old couch while the family’s extra bedroom remained empty.
Katie: How has the Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) played a part in helping you to do this work?
Claudia: This program was essential. They gave me the tools to start from scratch, and helped me create a foundation for my work in this campaign. From creating the bill’s fact sheets to learning about how the legislative process works, the Women’s Policy Institute instilled the knowledge and strategies I needed. Our mentors were also vital in the way that they support our work throughout the program. It was great to have that experienced guidance to fall back on when I needed help.
Katie: What is the role of the domestic workers in this movement?
Claudia: The workers are at the front line. They are the ones talking to legislators, planning the actions, and deciding the amendments to the bill. Their voices are the most important so we make sure to make space for their input. Workers’ families are also important – they are fighting alongside their moms. You see it in the streets when they march, and you see it in the press conferences when they speak. This movement is driven by workers, by women and their families.
Katie: Why is passing this bill into law vital to the domestic worker workforce in California?
Claudia: Domestic workers are a rapidly growing workforce that makes all other work possible in this state, and it’s up to our government to make sure that no worker falls through the cracks. By signing this bill into law, Governor Brown would show that California finally values ALL women’s work. Before this movement no one talked about domestic workers. Now legislators and celebrities are speaking out about the injustices these workers face. The next step is making this law. The time is now.