Fom RH Reality Check     Domestic Workers Rights

Ai Jen Poo and other organizers from the National Domestic Workers Alliance. (Feministing)

The attention gap for this issue is particularly unfortunate in light of how hard domestic workers are toiling not just in their jobs, but also to advocate for themselves. The successful campaign for a New York Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights which passed in 2010, and the campaign in California which unfortunately died with the Governor’s veto, were fueled by domestic workers who organized and traveled to their state capitols to tell their stories.

And in Massachusetts, where a campaign for domestic workers rights is about to launch and will focus on better wages, benefits, the right to rest breaks, and protection from sexual harassment, one of the key leaders of the Massachusetts effort is a woman who spent much of her life as a domestic worker, Maria Natalicia Rocha-Tracy (Natalicia Tracy). Tracy is currently Executive Director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center in Boston and a Boston University Ph.D candidate in sociology. 

………………. After struggling through this period of her life, earning her college degree and now as leader of the Brazilian Immigrant Center, Tracy has devoted her life to improving working conditions for other domestic workers.

“We have an obligation and responsibility to change things,” she said. “If you start with policy and educating the community, you can break through this chain of abuse and discrimination.”

The Massachusetts campaign is inspired in part by New York’s successful campaign. Though California’s campaign ultimately ended in defeat, both states’ efforts are helping to inform the work in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts bill will be introduced later this month.

Tracy is working alongside many organizers including Monique Nguyen, Executive Director of Matahari, a group focused on ending exploitation of women, immigrants and workers. In her Dissent article, Jaffe points out that Gloria Steinem as well as National Domestic Workers’ Alliance leader Ai-jen Poo are among the key feminist voices in the movement—but simply, there needs to be more attention and advocacy from the rest of us.