By Steve Angeles and Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
September 30, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO and LOS ANGELES–It was eight years in the making. But Filipino caregivers and their advocates can finally celebrate. Governor Jerry Brown signed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law last week, after two failed attempts in Sacramento.
California is the third state in the country, next to New York and Hawaii, that passed a measure of this kind. The law would require that caregivers get time and a half overtime pay for the number of hours worked past nine hours.
The law would apply to workers who live and work in homes such as nannies and caretakers, regardless of immigration status. It is expected to cover about 100,000 people.
“It’s a historic moment. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to lift the issues of domestic workers and to work and fight so hard and come out of the shadows and become recognized as workers,” said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
Advocates believe the law can create more jobs for caregivers, because employers will be inclined to hire multiple caregivers instead of paying overtime pay to one overworked caregiver.
“If employers don’t want to pay those working over nine hours overtime, then they need to find another caregiver to take over that shift,” said Nanette Manalo, a caregiver.
But in San Francisco, members of Migrante International said this is only partial victory. While the law ensures domestic workers get paid for the extra work, they said it does not cover all of their rights.
The law does not include the right of live-in employees to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, the right of live-in employees to adequate, decent and sanitary sleeping conditions, the right to meal and rest breaks, and the right to paid days after one year work with an employer.
“I was hurt when I found out about that. Our work, as caregiver, is no joke. It is hard,” said Victoria Aquino, a member of Migrante International.
Aquino said lawmakers should also keep the patient to caregiver ratio to a minimum. She said one caregiver one caring for six patients, round-the-clock, could put both caregiver and patients at risk.
Members of Migrante International said the fight is not over. They plan to talk to legislators to encourage them to pass new measures that would ensure domestic workers have the same rights as any other worker in America.
“What they’re giving us is not enough. We asked for all rights, and yet they only gave us one,” said another member of Migrante International, Rowena Viray.
“They just passed the bill to pacify us. But it is not enough. We will keep fighting for all rights to be given to domestic workers,” said Edong Pichay, also a member of Migrante International.
The law will go into effect this January. Its provisions will be up for a renewal after 2017. At least seven other states in America are starting their own campaigns for similar legislation.
For more information, you may contact Steve Angeles at email@example.com.