Domestic workers continue to struggle with joblessness more than a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic, new findings reveal. The survey, conducted by La Alianza for National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) Labs, reached Spanish-speaking domestic workers over the course of July and found that nearly 30% of respondents reported a week with zero hours worked that month. That number increased compared to findings from May and June.
Further findings also reveal prevalent food and housing insecurity, NDWA Labs said. “Domestic workers are the nannies, homecare workers, and house cleaners whose work is essential to our economy, and yet they are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of workers. Even before COVID-19, domestic workers earned less than the average U.S. worker and were three times as likely to be living in poverty.”
“While some domestic workers are starting to recover some of the work they had lost, this is not enough to ensure their economic security,” NDWA Labs said. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents said they experienced food insecurity. “In early July, 11% of respondents said they would not be able to afford food in the following two weeks and 67% were unsure if they would be able to,” NDWA Labs continued.
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. “In comparison, the same time last year 57% of respondents said they were unable to pay their monthly rent or mortgage,” NDWA Labs said. The research findings come as Missouri Rep. Cori Bush led a successful effort pressuring the Biden administration to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another two months.
While last month’s jobs report showed a decrease in unemployment for Black and Latino adults, NDWA Labs said “domestic workers, along with other vulnerable workers, are often underrepresented in official data.” Ai-jen Poo, executive director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, told Yahoo News “there’s still a lot of people who are out of work. And many domestic workers have not been able to get access to relief either because of their immigration status or because of the nature of their work, which is very informal.”
Worthy efforts by advocates and domestic workers themselves attempted to fill in this vacuum left by the federal government’s exclusion of undocumented workers from pandemic relief, establishing a Coronavirus Care Fund to aid thousands of workers. “Many of us do not qualify for the federal stimulus that is sending out checks to workers because we are not United States citizens,” home health worker Melissa said last year. She wrote a piece in The New York Times detailing how she was fired from her job very early on during the pandemic due to virus fears.
More than a year into the pandemic—and new cases surging in regions of the nation including Florida and Texas—domestic workers continue to struggle with joblessness and underemployment. Among domestic workers who reported some work during July, “86% of domestic worker respondents who had at least one hour of work per week said they wanted to work more hours,” said NDWA Labs.
“To this day, the workforce works without job security, unpredictable hours, no access to a safety net,” Poo continued to Yahoo News. “Eighty-two percent of domestic workers came into the pandemic without a single sick day, no health care.” The organization has worked with legislators to reintroduce the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a “groundbreaking” bill that “will, for the first time, extend common workplace rights to the 2.2 million domestic workers in the United States,” National Domestic Workers Alliance said. It was first introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and then-Sen. Kamala Harris in 2019.
Domestic Workers “are being called essential but treated as expendable,” Jayapal said in reintroducing the bill last month. “Supported by Vice President Harris and President Biden, our landmark legislation reverses domestic workers’ exclusion from the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide these heroes with the rights and protections that nearly all other workers enjoy while ensuring they finally receive the dignity, respect, and justice they deserve.”
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