LOS ANGELES — As caregivers and other domestic workers have to carry on with work throughout the coronavirus pandemic, advocates said they are more prone to abuse.
They’re hoping that will be addressed as state lawmakers tackle Senate Bill 1257, the Health and Safety For All Workers act.
“Domestic workers, who are primarily immigrant women, have been excluded from basic labor laws, including health and safety for far too long. This inclusion has life or death consequences every single day especially in times of crisis. During the wildfires that ravaged our state this exclusion from the law mean workers were asked to risk their lives defending properties and pets of their clients and to clean up toxic ashes without any kind of protective gear and in the midst of the current public health crisis this exclusion from laws means domestic workers are more likely to contract covid19 and spread it in all of our communities,” said Sen. Maria Elena Durazo.
Caregiver Lee Plaza believes it can be one of the major weapons against the coronavirus, as she and other caregivers continue to work the frontlines with little knowledge or protection at their facilities.
“Right now I fear for my health with COVID-19, especially because domestic workers are the only group of workers excluded from the occupational safety and health protections. We are right on the frontline caring for the very vulnerable patients like my main client who is a 98 year old bedridden woman.”
“This is exactly why domestic workers should have the legal right to know about the hazards in the workplaces just like any other worker. We face health and safety hazards, even during normal times in my experience, the home care agencies and families that I work for do not provide protective equipment, information about hazards and even enough safety training.”
But advocates for the bill said it’s not only important during this pandemic. It would also help domestic workers who’ve had to go through other ordeals.
“We have seen the devastating impacts from the lack of health and safety protections during other disasters in our state that we have faced. When wildfires burnt throughout California, domestic workers have been exposed to dangerous conditions year after year, cleaning up toxic ash, being asked to stay behind, to protect property in evacuated zones and each time they have had to choose to work in unsafe unhealthy workplaces or go without income,” said Kim Alvarenga, the CA domestic workers coalition director.
The bill, which was originally introduced in February, is currently going through committees.
As for Plaza, she’s on self-quarantine, after finding out that one of the care homes her agency operates has had several confirmed coronavirus patients.
She had recently gotten tested along with other caregivers and are still awaiting results.