By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

March 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Banging pots and pans, domestic workers — mostly immigrants and a few undocumented — celebrated International Women’s Day early by storming the California state building in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.
They called for a California Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights that would give protections to caregivers, nannies, maids, and other workers that work in homes of employers regardless of their immigration status.

“A lot of domestic workers are also migrant and immigrant women as we celebrate International Women’s Day (on March 8. We really recognize the advancement women have made in the world and domestic workers are rising up and raising their voices,” Joanna Concepcion of the
Filipino Migrant Center said.

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, saying though he agreed that domestic workers deserve fair pay and better working conditions, the bill left too many unanswered questions.
State Congressman Tom Ammiano is working on a new version that would answer the Governor’s concerns over the impact of the bill on low income patients.

The bill would ensure that domestic workers get proper wages, overtime pay, rest, and meals.
Live-in caregiver Nena Ruiz says she earns about $80 a day, and is often called on throughout the night to perform tasks for her patients.

“We are taking care of the patients and we also have to take care of ourselves,” she said.
As Congress works on immigration reform legislation, advocates for the bill say though it doesn’t carry any immigration-related provisions, it would grant labor protection to all workers, including the undocumented.

“We still have such a broken immigration system that is not addressing the needs of all of the workers that are here contributing to society. We need to have especially these protections because these are the most vulnerable workers that are being taken advantage of,” Aqui Versoza Soriano of the National Domestic Workers Alliance/ Pilipino Workers Center said.

One undocumented caregiver believes her lack of legal immigration status allows employers to pay her less than minimum wage, and overwork her with no breaks.

“Mahirap mahirap. It’s so difficult to come out of the shell because you think you don’t have the legal papers to go out and kung ano na lang nasa trabaho mo, kung anong trabaho kukunin mo na lang kasi takot ka but then we are human beings,” the caregiver said.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had also vetoed similar legislation in 2006. Currently, New York is the only state with a domestic workers bill of rights.

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