Black immigrant domestic workers who were already vulnerable in their workplace settings have continued to struggle more than two years since the onset of the pandemic, new survey findings show. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) Black Worker Initiative and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) said that 37% of respondents from a survey of 1,000 domestic workers revealed the’ve had difficulty finding work.
“During the pandemic, Black immigrant domestic workers have provided essential services and made vital contributions to the care economy, risking their lives,” said Marc Bayard, study coauthor and director of the Black Worker Initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Two years later, instead of getting vital protections and pay and benefits that reflect those risks on the job, they’re still getting the short end of the stick.”
The full survey, The Other Side of the Storm, revealed “that the pandemic exposed already vulnerable workers to new dangers while perpetuating the mistreatment and lack of standards experienced by domestic workers before the pandemic began,” IPS and NDWA said. The survey said that as nearly 80% of respondents said their employers did not provide paid medical leave or health insurance, and half had to work in environments where they or others were sick with COVID-19.
While lawmakers (including Vice President Kamala Harris when she was in the U.S. Senate) have previously introduced legislation that would guarantee paid sick leave, the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights has never made it to a president’s desk. “We should get some form of short term health care; and, we shouldn’t have to come to work sick,” said Marlene, a part-time elder care provider. “Some people just do that. I could get your sickness and carry it home to my family. But you don’t want to give me time.”
“In 2020, 65% of respondents feared eviction or disruption of utility services,” the survey continued. “In Feb 2021, 41% of respondents confirmed that their fears had actualized and they were forced to move, faced eviction or disruption in utility services due to their inability to pay rent or other bills during the pandemic.” Per survey findings, Miami saw the largest numbers of workers facing housing instability (41%), followed by Massachusetts (36%), then New York City (31%).
“In the context of Covid-19, it is unacceptable that these essential workers who area part of the human infrastructure that makes the work of others possible and ensures the strength and resiliency of our families and communities lack even the most basic labor rights,” the survey said. Recall how undocumented farm laborers were deemed “essential workers” during the pandemic but were shut out of federal relief and have remained vulnerable to deportation.
“The report also lists increased wages, free childcare, pay for family caregivers, and a pathway to citizenship as other needs Black immigrant domestic workers have in order to make their jobs good careers,” IPS and NDWA said. “Furthermore, the report recommends Congressional action, including increased investment in childcare and Medicaid’s home and community based-services, as well as the passage of the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to increase protections, raise standards, and provide benefits industry-wide.”
“Black immigrant domestic workers were classified as ‘essential’ in the beginning of the pandemic yet two years later are still waiting for the rights, benefits, and protections that society affords other workers,” said NDWA Executive Director Jenn Stowe. “It is time we take action to ensure the strength and resilience of this sector by supporting Black immigrant workers.”
Research conducted by La Alianza for National Domestic Workers Alliance Labs last year revealed that nearly 30% of Spanish-speaking respondents reported a week with zero hours worked in July 2021. That number increased compared to findings from May and June. Nearly half, 48%, told researchers that they hadn’t been able to afford their rent or mortgage. Nearly 60% of those who said they hadn’t been able to pay rent or mortgage said they were two months or more behind.
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