One in every two direct care workers and one in every three child care workers live in a low-income family (below 200 percent of the poverty line), and many live in poverty. Hourly wages for the caregiving workforce are low and many lack health insurance. Despite work, these families struggle to make ends meet. Our society depends on the care work of many paid professionals-direct care and child care workers-to help meet the daily needs of our children and the elderly. To stem turnover and provide quality services to young children and the elderly, job conditions among the direct care and child care workforce must improve, and increasing wages is a promising place to start.
As immigrant workers nationwide battle for basic respect, a leading domestic workers’ organization released a full, unprecedented report detailing exploitative conditions and demographics of the nation’s most hidden low-wage industry. The report combines statistical analysis of data from over 500 mostly immigrant workers with personal stories of workers and employers, in a joint effort between DataCenter and Domestic Workers United. Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley’s introduction explains how the nation’s troubled history of race, gender and class inequality come shamefully together in its domestic work industry. New York University’s Immigrant Rights Clinic delivers a historical look at why the law continues to ignore household labor, perpetuating ancient views that domestic labor is not “real” work.
In 2002, Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the San Francisco Day Labor Program Women’s Collective of La Raza Centro Legal came together to analyze and to strategize to improve the household work industry. Because there is no official data available about the number of household workers or information about their work conditions in California, these membership-based and membership-led organizations of low-income immigrant Latina women, many of whom are household workers, joined with the DataCenter and the San Francisco Department of Public Health to create a participatory research project to assess the industry. Over thirty immigrant women were trained to administer the survey and together they collected two hundred and forty surveys from their peers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The hour-long surveys were conducted on buses, in parks, at Laundromats and in the homes of household workers. As the Household Worker Rights Coalition Survey (HWRC Survey) results make clear, this is a very vulnerable industry. Rampant abuses of household workers must be addressed.