If COVID-19 has changed anything in the country, it has been our perception of work, courage, and where the driving force of our economy really lies.
Today, it is doctors, health care workers, cashiers, and food workers who sustain the little normality that remains in our routines.
“They were never ‘unskilled workers,'” recalled Bronx representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. “They were always essential. And it’s WAY past time they got the respect they deserve.”
Among them, especially, are domestic workers, a workforce historically overlooked but now more than ever essential to the care and attention of millions of people.
There are more than two million domestic workers in the United States, “most women of color and immigrants,” as the New York Times explained in its exclusive report on this community in 2019.
“They are housecleaners, nannies and health aides working in private homes, a majority making less than $13 an hour,” the paper added. “It’s a work force that is extremely heterogeneous, largely invisible and subject to abuses that range from wage theft to sexual assault and outright human trafficking.”
That is why the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), founded in 2007, has fought for the recognition and inclusion of these workers in the political discourse, in search of a legislative and protective framework that allows them to subsist in a dignified manner.
At a time as critical as the coronavirus pandemic, these workers are more than ever at risk.
“Because of domestic workers’ unique workplaces — inside other people’s homes — the struggles domestic workers face are largely out of the public spotlight. Domestic workers take care of what is most important to us, yet they are often the least valued and the most vulnerable,” explains the NDWA.
Given the restrictions imposed by some states and the risk of contagion and assistance protocols, the Alliance has established the Coronavirus Care Fund, a campaign to raise funds to “provide emergency assistance for home care workers, nannies and house cleaners” and allow them to stay home and prevent the spread of the virus.
“As low-wage workers without a safety net or paid time off, they are hit the hardest by any national crisis, including this pandemic,” their platform explains. “Poverty will be a decisive factor in how this virus will spread in the months to come. We all have to do everything we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus and that includes providing assistance to support workers in staying at home.”
Through the website, domestic workers can apply for $400 in emergency assistance through a Visa gift card, which allows them to deal with personal and family expenses incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“While emergency assistance is no substitute for legislation addressing long-standing issues of inequality, it is critical for us to come together in this moment of crisis and care for the people who care for us,” the NDWA concluded.