California state senators pass protections for domestic workers amid pandemic

As California caregivers keep working on the frontlines of the pandemic, and with their facilities continuing to be hotspots for COVID-19 — they’re desperate for state lawmakers to pass a bill that guarantees them hazard protections.

The bill, called the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, would amend the California Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1973, or Cal-Osha — which currently excludes domestic workers.

Recently — state senators voted 27 to 11 in favor of the bill.

It now moves to the state assembly, before a final vote, and the governor’s signature.

The bill would ensure domestic workers, many of whom are immigrants and women, would be provided the same necessary safety protections as other workers in California — which include personal protective equipment or PPE, health and safety training, and legal protection against retaliation, should they feel the need to speak up about their own health and safety at work.

“We cannot properly care for our clients when we are 6 feet apart. Caregiving requires close contact with our consumers for quality care. Just like doctors and nurses, we are frontliners, caring for people who are most vulnerable to the illness. Yet we are not guaranteed the same protective gear as all other essential workers. More and more caregivers are exposed to the virus,” said Allen Galeon.

The bill was introduced in February, but had received momentum as caregivers have been at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19.

Majority of coronavirus related deaths among health workers in Los Angeles county involve caregivers, and many of them were identified as Asian.

“Going back to work in a pandemic without health and safety restrictions, I will be putting my life at risk,” said Cristina Ragas.

As the bill continues to advance within the California state legislature, domestic workers and their advocates have been launching online campaigns calling for its passage.

While the coronavirus pandemic may have highlighted the need for this bill to pass, it would also protect domestic workers during other potentially hazardous situations like natural disasters.

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