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Assembly Bill 241 Will Improve Conditions for Domestic Workers

by Tom Ammiano, published

Shutterstock //  Pressmaster Shutterstock // Credit: Pressmaster

Of course, I disagree with Raul Carranza’s opposition to my Assembly Bill 241, the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, but he does identify one key fact: Many people with disabilities are able to lead independent lives and pursue careers because of domestic workers.

In addition, domestic workers allow a lot of California’s economy to function, because people can go to work knowing their loved ones – their children or aging parents – are being cared for.

However, Carranza suggests that raising domestic worker wages is a threat to this situation.

First of all, AB 241 is not about raising wages for domestic workers, even though many of them have such low wages that some months they cannot afford to keep food in the house for the whole month -- only part of it. Their median wage is just $10 an hour. Low-income people eligible for In-Home Supportive Services are exempt from AB 241, as Carranza admits, so the bill wouldn’t impact them.

What my bill seeks to correct is that many domestic workers not only have low wages, but they are denied the basic labor protections that apply to almost everyone else – even the barista at Starbucks. This is an injustice to people who perform such vital duties.

Many of them do not get overtime pay for overtime worked, nor do they get meal or rest breaks. If someone hires a domestic worker for daytime care of a relative and asks them to stay late one day, that worker doesn’t get overtime. Overtime would be extended to these workers under AB 241.

Some caregivers currently are in attendance 24 hours at a stretch and may be woken up throughout the night without legally being entitled to a full night’s sleep.

People who have disabilities should not have to be assisted by workers who are overworked and have insufficient sleep. That’s why many people with disabilities are supporting AB 241 and even coming to Sacramento to testify on its behalf. They recognize that AB 241, by improving conditions for domestic workers, will improve the quality of the work they provide.

I have a long history – almost 50 years – supporting the rights of people with disabilities. My staff and I continue to reach out to the disability rights community to find out what we can do to adapt the bill to meet their needs, as well as those of domestic workers.

But supporting one group’s rights can never involve trampling on those of others. Domestic workers must be treated fairly. That’s why domestic worker bills have been passed or introduced throughout the country. That’s why some employers are already giving their domestic workers what all workers deserve: just compensation and working conditions.

Carranza concludes by saying this is an expensive campaign, but he’s including funds that have nothing to do with AB 241. Does he really think that campaign contributions from groups like teachers’ unions or Catholic bishops are only to benefit the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights?

His data only shows how broad the support for the bill is. This is a grassroots movement and it has my complete support, because all workers deserve fair pay for their hard work.

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