For as long as I can remember, I have been engaging with, surrounded by, or employing domestic workers. I grew up in 1960’s Virginia with a “cleaning lady” – that’s what we called May. When my three siblings and I were born, Evelyn, a live-in nurse, helped my mother take care of us. When my mother became ill at age 71, Tina, a homecare worker, came to help her for 14 hours a day. When my mother-in-law became ill, another woman named Tina was her live-in caregiver. I currently employ a house cleaner and her team who come once a week to clean our home.
Employing a house cleaner makes it easier for me to do my own work as a Career Counselor, where I try to help individuals gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of work in their lives. I work with educators, healthcare professionals, lawyers, scientists, accountants, programmers, and nonprofit professionals. All of them are thinking about what values they want represented in the work they do every day. We all want the value of our work to be recognized. How is the dignity, value, and voice of domestic workers “seen” and heard in our Commonwealth?
With the passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2014 (and its enactment into law in 2015), we now provide protections that have been denied to this workforce for many years. Hopefully this increases the dignity and respect that domestic workers are shown in our society and are able to feel in their professions.
And with this summer’s introduction of the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act in Congress (thank you Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal), we can finally hear the voices of domestic workers, not only in the eight states and one municipality (Seattle, WA) that have passed a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, but all over the country.
(Thank you to Congresspersons Clark, Kennedy, McGovern, Pressley and Trahan who are early co-sponsors.)
On this Labor Day holiday, as we celebrate the time off that was made possible by those who fought hard to ensure the rights of workers, let’s take time out to also celebrate and take action to support the often overlooked, isolated and invisible workforce of house cleaners, nannies and caregivers – the domestic workers who make all other work possible.
Amy Mazur is a Steering Committee Member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network who resides in Newton, Massachusetts.