A Crown Heights-based domestic workers organization is hosting their annual gala to raise money to create more programs in Manhattan on Dec. 22. Domestic Workers United will be celebrating their 17th anniversary, and organizers hope to also raise awareness about their movement to spearhead beneficial and informative meetings for women of color working the industry. With the 7th anniversary passing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, the group also wants to ensure that workers are being reminded of their rights, said the cultural outreach coordinator.
“We are looking for funding to do more programs surrounding around ‘Know Your Rights,’ and training around the workplace about sex harassment, especially for women of color and those who are working in isolation,” said Christine Lewis.
Often a lot of women are left with not knowing about the bill, let alone what they are entitled to and what they can demand and refuse from an employer, added Lewis. She said the movement’s goal is to equip more women with the knowledge for a safe and fair workplace.
“We are a dynamic women’s movement organizing for power, respect, and fair labor standards and the movement is about ending exploitation in the workplace,” she added.
Every month the group holds meetings and discuss the nature of the jobs, which encompass child care and housekeeping, changing field s and how they can adapt to challenges.
“It’s about the one-on-one and how you negotiate behind the doors, because when you’re working with a parent you still want to talk about what you’re really worth if you’re doing more than what you were hired for,” said Lewis. “Because there are women who aren’t sure how to renegotiate their contract and making $10 an hour, when they should be getting $15 an hour or more.”
She said that other things including personal care have to be prioritized.
“Even though you’re employed, you still want to talk about paid time off, and the days you need off for doctor appointments,” she added.
Lewis said the movement needs the overall support of the Caribbean community because the vast majority of the women in the field are from the region, and left behind other careers just like others to pursue more promising goals in the United States. And the struggles they encounter, while stigmatized, is similar to many face in different industries.
“Some of us leave our country where we were nurses, doctors, police officers, and civil and public servants, but we came here to work from the bottom up and there is no shame in the work we do,” she said. “We need to organize and educate our community around labor rights, whether unionized or not because any one of us can be next. Domestic workers are sick and tired of being sick and tired and we need our community to support us.”
“Domestic Workers United Gala” at 40 Rector St. between West and Washington streets in Manhattan., 9th floor. Dec. 22, 6–10 pm. Suggested donation $40.