Filipino Caregivers Welcome CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

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SAN JOSE, Calif. - 55-year old Nelly Gonzales said this with a sigh, “I never expected life in America to be this hard,”.


It was challenging for her to work as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia for 8 years. But she never expected to be abused as a worker, when she moved to America in 1995.
She was hired to work as a live-in caregiver for a distant relative, who she does not want to be named. Not only was she a full-time caregiver for 6 mentally disabled adults, she was also a personal maid to her employer and her family.


“I worked 7 days a week and was on-call 24 hours a day. I was really tired. But I couldn’t complain. I had to do my job,” she said, in between tears.

Worse, she was not allowed to have days off. She said, “I felt like a slave.”


For all her work, Gonzales only got paid a measly $150 a month.
“I wanted to complain but I didn’t want my employer to lose her business. It’s just that I couldn’t take the abuse anymore,” she said.
In October 2010, she finally gathered the courage to file a complaint against her employer. She said the Labor Department has informed her that she stands to get $180,000 in back wages.


Gonzales said she’s glad that California lawmakers are starting to recognize their rights as domestic workers. Last month, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights.


If passed, the bill would ensure that nannies, caregivers and housekeepers — regardless of immigration status — would get overtime pay, minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, healthcare coverage, paid vacation and sick leaves, among others.
Currently, domestic workers are not included in many labor laws. If signed into law, California will be the second state to enact such law.


This weekend, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, Filipino caregivers and their advocates celebrated this development and vowed to campaign for the passage of the bill.


Katie Joaquin of the Filipino Advocates for Justice said, “The Domestic Workers Coalition has been working on this bill since 2006. Last year, New York has passed a similar bill and it’s on its implementation phase right now. It’s up to California legislators now to step up to the plate and follow suit in recognizing domestic work.”


There are about 140,000 Filipino working as caregivers in the U.S. Joaquin said that majority of these caregivers have experienced abuse in one way or another and believes this bill finally give them what is due their work.


If you are an abused caregiver and would like to know how you can be helped, please contact the Filipino Advocates for Justice at (510) 465-9876 or visit www.filipinos4action.org.