How ‘Roma’ Is Inspiring Domestic Workers to Stand Up for Their Rights | NYT Opinion
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How ‘Roma’ Is Inspiring Domestic Workers to Stand Up for Their Rights | NYT Opinion


“When I saw the movie
‘Roma,’ I saw myself. And I said, this is what I do. This is my life. Even though the movie was
set in the 1970s in Mexico, I am one of over two
million domestic workers who face similar struggles
in the United States today. ‘Roma’ is sparking a
much-needed conversation about the value
of domestic work. The reality is, one in
four domestic workers live in poverty because we’re
excluded from minimum wage and overtime protections. We suffer abuse from
employers behind closed doors because we have been excluded
from the basic workplace protection against
discrimination and sexual harassment. This is 2019, America. It’s time for change.” [big band music] “These injustices are rooted
in the legacy of slavery. In the 1930s,
when other workers were gaining labor protection
under the New Deal — ‘A guarantee to
labor, adequate pay, and proper
conditions of work’ — “lawmakers in the South
specifically excluded domestic workers from
those labor rights. They didn’t want
to give an inch to their own black
employees, and they didn’t see women’s work in
the home as being real work. And as for coloring, I’ve been
a nanny for over 18 years. I migrated from St.
Lucia, where I worked with the attorney general. Careful. I was hired to take
care of the children, but I had to clean the
bathrooms, I had to dust, I had to mop with
no extra pay. Years ago, one of my
employers left dog poop for me to pick up. I said, no. This has gone far enough. I continued speaking up. And eventually, I was fired. There’s a scene in
the movie “Roma” that spoke to me,
the scene where the family’s at the beach. The main character, Cleo, the
domestic worker, cannot swim. But when the children strayed
too far into the ocean, she didn’t think
for one second. She went in after
them to save them. She put her life on the line. I put my life on hold. I didn’t have
kids to take care of the kids of the
families I worked with. The 1930s are over.” [chanting] “We’re calling on
Congress to pass the first national bill of
rights for domestic workers.” “We won’t wait.” “It provides us with safe and
healthy working conditions, paid sick leave,
paid overtime, freedom from sexual
harassment and discrimination, fair scheduling
practices, and more. We’ve already passed laws
like this in eight states and the city of Seattle. To those watching
from Congress, I urge you to follow the
lead of Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila
Jayapal, who are cosponsoring the first national bill. Think back to the domestic
worker that raised you, the domestic worker that’s
currently cleaning your home and watching your kids. They are the ones
that make it possible for you to go to work. Think about how you would
feel going into work with no worker rights.”

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