Monica Trejo of Care in Action Talks About the Urgency of Amplifying the Voices of Women of Color

Monica Tejo Care In Action Women of Color BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of educationalequity.org

As we end the year, let’s take a moment to reflect on how long we’ve come, politically speaking. Women of color are leading the nation with their impressive political power and are continuing to do so. Just this past summer, there was a record high for women of color serving in state legislatures. 

However, these historical accounts have had help from a variety of organizations. After all, we all know by now that we can’t win alone; it is a collective effort. 

One of the organizations leading these monumental changes for the nation has been Care in Action, an organization led by women of color working on behalf of domestic workers throughout the nation. Many of them are women of color and immigrants.

Creating change at all levels 

Care in Action help comes in many forms. From endorsing candidates or canvassing across key states to encouraging voters, they have been vital to the political growth within the Black and Brown community. As they continue to be essential for the political shift in the United States, they have transformed the “she-cession” into an opportunity to advocate for federal voters’ rights and protections. This means that they are doing everything in their power to ensure that all citizens, especially domestic workers, receive the equity and protections they deserve. 

Midterm elections are fast-approaching, so it is important these issues are top of mind for everyone. Women of color, undoubtedly, are key to election outcomes. 

So, as we prepare for a new political wave of anxious furor, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge on how to drive the nation into a direction that will keep domestic, immigrants, and historically excluded communities part of the conversation. 

This is why we recently chatted with Care in Action’s Arizona Director, Monica Trejo, about the work Care in Action is doing to amplify women of color’s role as we head into the upcoming elections. 

Check out what she had to say!

What were some defining factors that inspired the launch/ creation of Care in Action?

Care in Action helps build political power for millions of domestic and care workers, most of whom are women of color, across the country. Women of color founded Care in Action in 2016 to elevate our voices. I was inspired by the work and was eager to join the team. I had the privilege of launching Care in Action in Arizona in March 2020, joining six other states — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Arizona is a political battleground state with a growing population of Latinos. A decade ago, Arizona was front and center of a national debate surrounding immigration. At the time, Senate President Russell Pearce introduced SB1070, legislation that was considered the most draconian anti-immigrant law in the U.S. This law legalized racial profiling against Latinos in Arizona. Many of my friends and family were being impacted by this law — so it became a personal fight for me and many Latinos in Arizona. I decided to get involved in political and electoral organizing. Folks from different races, backgrounds, and political ideologies organized and came together to successfully recall Senator Pearce. This experience proved to me that change is possible with unity, which is why I’m proud to organize women of color and build a coalition at Care in Action.

What does the day-to-day look like in the organization?

Launching Care in Action in Arizona during a critical election year — in the middle of the pandemic no less — was a significant challenge. It was important to us to build political power for women, women of color, and immigrants and to do so in a way that kept us safe from COVID and a rise in hate crimes while protecting women of color from sophisticated voter suppression efforts. These populations make up most of our 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States. We hired a large, diverse team, including domestic workers who were monolingual Spanish speakers, to ensure we were reaching out to as many women of color as possible. Together, we made over 1.75 million calls to voters across the state.

Working in electoral and strategic organizing requires a high level of flexibility and responsiveness. Every day can look different, especially during elections. You may find us planning and organizing for our next community event one day and meeting with local and

federal officials on advancing the rights of our domestic workers the next day.

What is something you wished more people in the United States understood about domestic workers?

Domestic work is hard work. As a former domestic worker, I can say it was one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had — but it is also work we take pride in. At some point, every single one of us will need care. And everyone has a care story. Domestic workers are nannies, caregivers, home health workers, and house cleaners. They take care of what is most important: our loved ones and our homes. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Can you walk us through “she-cession” and what key things have been done to properly advocate for federal voter rights and protections?

This pandemic has created an economic crisis for many women, including domestic workers. Last year’s December jobs report stated a loss of 140,000 jobs, with women accounting for nearly all the job loss. Women of color have been impacted the hardest, and the pandemic has further exposed the structures of racism and gender inequalities for many of our communities. 

At the national level, we have advocated for legislation that could alleviate some of these challenges, including financial support for child care and home health care. But this legislation will also create more home care jobs for women, which means families can get back to work if they have the care services they need, and care workers will have access to good, paying jobs that will help them thrive, not just survive. 

Right now, the Build Back Better Act, which pledges $150 billion in-home care, is headed to the Senate for a vote. We’re urging Congress to pass this historic legislation and move it to President Biden’s desk for signing because the quality of life for all Americans is on the line. Care absolutely can’t wait — it is the solution we’ve been waiting for.

Additionally, Care in Action has remained an advocate for ensuring the right to vote for all, especially women of color, immigrants, and underrepresented communities. We know that

women, especially women of color, are an important voting bloc, and we have been committed to championing women of color and putting them into positions of leadership. We endorse women of color and leaders that lead and support policies that center women of color.

What’s the best way for someone to join this movement?

There are many ways to be involved. I encourage every Latina who wants to support our domestic workers and build power for women of color to join us. You can start by following us on all social media platforms to learn more about opportunities in your region — find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @careinactionus! You can also visit us at careinaction.us to stay plugged in to the work we’re doing or text ALLIN to 33843.

Tell us about one of the most impactful moments you’ve experienced while working at Care in Action.

This pandemic illustrates a high need for more women in all levels of office. Care in Action is at the forefront of investing and elevating women of color candidates. During the 2020 Election Season, we endorsed 73 candidates for state and local offices. All 73 candidates were women of color, and 24 were running for the first time. We endorsed 7 in Arizona alone! This was a powerful reminder for me that when women of color lead, we all win. We center the needs of communities who need our support, we fight for a future where we can all live in dignity and work with respect, and we’re fighting for a more just country that represents the diverse needs and communities that make up the United States.

Is there anything else, in particular, you’d like to share with the BELatina News audience?

The House recently passed the Build Back Better Act, and now we need the Senate to do the same. Congress truly has the opportunity to pass one of the most significant investments in working families and women of color in a generation. This $150 billion investment in America’s care infrastructure will support care workers who perform essential services in our communities. With an investment in care infrastructure, we can get our economy back on track and get families back to work. It’s time for real equitable economic recovery, which is one of the answers.

I know people don’t want to think about politics during the holidays, but this is actually a perfect time to keep it top of mind. After all, informing yourself properly will give you the right tools to speak on it at your upcoming holiday events.