Illinois caregivers, advocates fight for Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights

By Connie Macatula-De Leon, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 19, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Over 400 Asian-Americans rallied and met with elected officials in the state capitol building in Springfield last Thursday to commemorate Asian-American Action day.

Their main agenda — to fight for the passage of The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

“Domestic workers are those working in houses: senior caregivers, child caregivers, nannies, babysitters, housecleaners, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks,” retired caregiver Sally Richmond said.

There are an estimated two million domestic workers nationwide, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance or NDWA. According to a survey conducted by NDWA last November, 23 percent of domestic workers were paid less than their state’s minimum wage requirements and 48 percent claimed they were not making enough to support their families.

Advocates say Domestic workers, predominantly composed of women, have been excluded from labor protection, a right that is extended to workers in other industries. These benefits include:

• the right to be paid no less than the minimum wage
• the right to be paid for all work hours
• the right to at least one day off a week
• the right to meal and rest periods
• the right to paid time offs

“There’s a gender bias,” community leader Gerry Clarito said. “Part of the struggle is fighting for equal rights regardless of your immigration status, gender, or nationality.”

Domestic workers are one of the most unrecognized and exploited groups in the workforce. Not only is the work physically difficult, dealing with patients, are at times, challenging.

“I’m not used to cleaning toilets, scrubbing the floor, cleaning windows,” Marites Wynkoop, Director of Everest Home Health Care, said. “The most common thing that happens is that when you go to a patient’s house, patient refuses to see you or for no reason at all, patient just doesn’t like you. They would yell and scream at you sometimes and they would ask you to leave the house. Or sometimes, they won’t even let you in the house.”

Filipino caregivers and their advocates here hope Illinois will soon be the 5th state, after New York, Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts to implement basic labor protections for domestic workers.

“If you are not a good negotiator, you are left out, and you can be exploited,” Richmond said.

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  • Kikay Pang0
    19 May 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Illegals are not entitled to stay and seek employment in the US ..Therefore, labor rights are not applicable for them..