The Children’s March: A Demonstration in Support of the Domestic Workers Bill
July 30th, 2012
by Lateef McLeod
(Left to right) Dorothy Tegeler (Hand in Hand organizer), unknown, Nicole Brown-Booker, Jessica Lehman, Lateef McLeod, Sascha Bitter.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Sacramento, California with Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, to participate in the Children’s March. Hand in Hand is a grassroots organization that consists of the employers of domestic workers, who advocate for the rights of their domestic help. The Children’s March took place to voice support for the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 889).
I, along with my friend Jessica Lehman, went on the march to help put a face on and give voice to the concerns of the disability community, particularly those who rely on domestic workers to assist them with their personal care needs. We hope that this bill of rights will improve the working conditions for the people that we rely on to support our basic life functions, in addition to professionalizing the occupation.
Nikki Brown-Booker, a member of Hand in Hand who also has a disability, has employed domestic workers since she turned eighteen and went away to college. Of learning to be an employer, she said, “There wasn’t really anything to help me deal with the issues around pay, leave, vacation, or how to even fill out timesheets.” She is grateful that AB 889 has provisions that enable employers to plan better when workers accrue and use vacation or sick time.
At the Children’s March, many different organizations came together to support the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. The rally was held in front of the Capitol steps and State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, one of the bill’s sponsors, spoke. He later forwarded this statement:
“For decades, domestic work has been excluded from both state and federal labor laws and has struggled to be recognized as real work worthy of labor protections. Despite the importance of their work to California’s economy, most domestic workers are not provided with the most basic rights expected by nearly all other California employees: equal rights to meal and rest breaks, and overtime pay. AB 889 rights these wrongs by establishing basic protections for domestic workers.”
After the speeches, we walked around the Capitol building in a display of solidarity and unity. Members of Hand in Hand visited the offices of state congresspersons to educate them about and urge them to support the bill. I visited State Senator Loni Hancock, and spoke to one of her aides, expressing my support for the bill and explaining why Senator Hancock should support it. I talked about my personal experience employing domestic workers, and how this bill will give more dignity to domestic work and attract more people to the field, which in turn will benefit the disability community.
It was good to see the great turnout for the Children’s March and all the people that support AB 889. Hopefully the State Congress will acknowledge all the support the bill has and pass it for Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law. It would be a step in the right direction for labor rights and the disability community.
If you want to support the bill (which is currently stalled in committee), please visit: http://www.domesticworkers.org/ca-bill-of-rights.
That’s my view of the Bay.
* On a side note, I took an Amtrak train for the first time on this trip. I found it really accessible to board because they had an electronic lift that raised me to the level of the train entrance. Once inside, I was able to fold an empty seat next to me and slide a wheelchair into that slot. I was also pleasantly surprised that the restroom on the train was relatively spacious, and I had room to maneuver inside with my power wheelchair and personal care assistant. An added bonus was that there was wifi, so I could access the Internet with my iPad. I will definitely consider traveling on Amtrak again.
The Amtrak website provides information for people with wheelchairs: http://www.amtrakcalifornia.com/index.cfm/travel-info/accessibility.