Gray Panthers of San Francisco
April 2007 Newsletter

International Women's Day
Out from "Behind Closed Doors"


On International Women’s Day, there was an exciting press conference held by Mujeres Unidas y Activas, La Raza Centro Legal’s Day Labor Program Women’s Collective, and the Data Center. They released a report they’d worked on for four years: “Behind Closed Doors, Working Conditions of California Household Workers.” Immigrant workers collectively wrote questionnaires; interviewed their peers in buses, parks, laundromats and homes; entered the data; and interpreted it, with help from the Data Center, a group helping workers and minority groups organize research.

You could hardly get in the room. At first, women were hugging each other in congratulation, but when the press conference began there was a feeling of decorum, accomplishment, and great pride. Household workers’ conditions, of course, are nothing to celebrate, yet the feeling was of optimism and advancing under fire. We all need this.

Household workers are underpaid. They support an average of two adults and two children, and half are primary family earners. Only one fifth earn enough to pay rent, food, childcare and other basic expenses for a family in San Francisco.

Household workers are abused. They are frequently deprived of overtime pay or meal and rest breaks. Many work more hours or get less pay than agreed upon. They must work when their own kids are sick. Many reported insults, threats, sexual harassment, or violence.

Household work is unhealthy, but workers are uninsured. Frequent dangers are from toxic cleaning chemicals, infections, falls, or heavy lifting. Few get protective gear or safety instruction. Almost no one gets health coverage. One third had an illness or injury needing medical care last year; over half of them got none. Most of the care they received was paid for by friends, family or themselves.

This will get worse with stepped-up immigration raids, increasing gentrification, rising health costs, and safety-net cuts. Gray Panthers need to fight the ICE raids, and support unconditional amnesty, city budget initiatives for immigrants and bills protecting immigrant workers’ rights.

Mujeres Unidas y Activas website

SF Day Labor Program website

Data Center website

More about the report "Behind Closed Doors"

Download the report "Behind Closed Doors" (pdf)

(back to April 2007 Newsletter front page)