Posted on November 30, 2017
As The Floodgates Open, Don’t Forget About Our Cleaners, Nannies, And Carers
I wrote a piece for @BuzzFeed locating domestic workers inside of sexual violence. Because not all survivors are wealthy white women. Thanks again @TaranaBurke for being the light. https://t.co/o1XTMAx7B4
— Alicia Garza (@aliciagarza) November 29, 2017
Exposing the appalling behavior of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein has opened the political space for millions across the country to share their stories of sexual harassment and sexual violence. As we support survivors, we can’t forget that abuse also thrives in low-wage sectors like domestic work —a fast-growing field that will take up a growing share of the workforce as our population ages. These workers, who are disproportionately women of color and immigrant women, are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence, working, often alone, in “off the books” unregistered workplace and private homes where even the minimal social restraints of white-collar office culture are not present. These dynamics create an atmosphere of abuse that makes it possible for employers and clients to intimidate, threaten, sexually harass, and assault. Isabel is an immigrant from Guatemala who has worked as a house cleaner for more than two decades. In one house where she worked, one of the three men who lived there tried to rape her when she came to clean. June is a queer Jamaican immigrant who works as a home care provider. June was once hired as a live-in caregiver for a man who demeaned her, demanded that she lie in bed with him, and grabbed her breasts and vagina repeatedly while she was doing her job. June and Isabel’s stories aren’t exceptions to the rule in our workforce: They are the rule. The abuse and harassment of these workers rarely, if ever, makes the news or is the subject of Senate hearings. Yet what we know from #MeToo and from the stories of our members at the National Domestic Workers Alliance is that sexual violence and sexual harassment are pervasive, and survivors deserve a real response. Domestic workers have had to fight to be covered by the most basic federal labor laws, and continue to be excluded from many today. We can and must fix this. Bringing all working people under robust labor protections — and then enforcing them — can ensure that survivors have the support needed to speak out, knowing they will be trusted and believed, and the abuses of power will be addressed. All people deserve dignity and respect, including the people working in our homes and caring for our loved ones. Our laws have been painfully insufficient, and it’s time to create a new generation of protections that both address historic exclusions, and account for the millions of survivors who fall through the cracks working in “nontraditional” settings like domestic work.