On June 9th and 16th, Hand in Hand and We Dream in Black (WeDIB), a program of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, convened two virtual dialogues with Black domestic workers and domestic employers in New York City. We had powerful, hard but necessary conversations about the experiences and struggles of Black domestic workers and the ways employers can stand in solidarity in the fight to end systemic oppression.
We learned how white politicians, holding on to slavery-era white supremacy, did not value Black lives enough to extend them basic rights and dignity in the 1930s, when our labor laws were formed, leaving Black domestic and farm workers without protections. We examined the trauma that Black mothers for generations have faced, looking back to the conditions under slavery that forced Black mothers to care for white children, while their own children were brutally stolen from them.
We heard from Black domestic workers who still experience anti-Black racism on the job and listened as they shared about the traumatic impact of police killing Black people on them and their communities. We heard stories from Black nannies who everyday deal with the emotional struggle to equally care for their own children and the children they are hired to watch over.
We also discussed how the majority of deaths from COVID-19 in Black and brown communities are a result of systemic racism.
New York City Hand in Hand members listened and joined the conversations by recognizing their own power and privilege and encouraging other employers to do the same, and sharing the numerous ways they are showing up in solidarity with the movement for Black lives.
If you missed these conversations, we invite you to watch the Facebook Live recordings below:
Conversation #1: A Dialogue with Black Domestic Workers #BlackLivesMatter
Conversation #2: A Dialogue with Black Mamas in Domestic Work
What employers can do to support Black domestic workers
Kay Beach, a nanny and We Dream in Black member, addressed employers and Hand in Hand members directly, urging them to recognize the trauma Black domestic workers contend with in their lives as a result of police violence, and to see the unfair working conditions often placed on them. She also asked that employers consider providing additional mental health days to Black domestic workers as they struggle with the systemic killings of people in their community. See Kay’s call to action below.
Here are some additional ways you can promote Mental Health wellness as an Employer:
- Make yourself available. Set regular check-ins with your employee to ask them how they are doing. Be sure that the time you set aside for these conversations is included as part of paid working time.
- During your check-in, let the worker you employ know that you care and want to support them, but don’t push them to talk about things they don’t want to. For example, recognize that Black people are often reviving trauma when they speak about their experiences under systemic oppression.
- Provide at least 2 or 3 days of paid time so the person you employ can have an emotional rest. If the worker in your home needs more paid time to deal with a personal issue or trauma, agree to it.
- In New York City, support the passage of these two bills— Intro 339, which provides human rights protection for domestic workers and the Paid Personal Time bill. Email [email protected] if you would like to get involved and learn about the campaigns.
- Be sensitive to news and events happening outside the home, and their emotional impact on the person you employ. For example, acknowledge that the COVID-19 has a greater impact on communities of color, and that if your employee is a person of color, they may need more paid time-off for self-care. Black people dying three times the rate of white people.