In March 2020, the National Domestic Workers Alliance announced the Coronavirus Care Fund, a campaign to raise $4 million in emergency relief funds for domestic workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Domestic workers, a large percentage of whom are women, immigrants, and people of color, are among the unsung heroes on the front lines of the pandemic. They take care of homes, families, and people who are at high risk of catching the virus, like the elderly and people with chronic illnesses. What’s more, many domestic workers find themselves faced with the COVID-19 crisis without any kind of support network, savings to fall back on, or union to protect their rights.
“Domestic workers are being forced to navigate this crisis alone and without a safety net,” says Ai-jen Poo, NDWA’s Executive Director. “Donations to the Coronavirus Care Fund will provide emergency assistance to nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers who need help right now, giving them the stability they need to stay home and be a part of the solution to this crisis.”
The National Domestic Workers Alliance fights for the basic rights and dignity of domestic workers. Their programs raise awareness about issues domestic workers face every day, like unfair wages and work conditions, assault and safety, and the lack of a platform to share their voices. NDWA works through community organizing to lobby for pro-worker legislation, produce a domestic workers’ Bill of Rights, and empower working women to take on leadership roles within their communities.
In the face of COVID-19, NDWA sees a real and present danger for domestic workers. The grocery and supply shortages that lead to jokes about toilet paper on the Internet pose a real threat to workers’ livelihood and safety.
“Low-wage workers are hit the hardest by any national crisis, including this pandemic,” says Poo. “Poverty will be a decisive factor in how this virus will spread in the months to come. Staying home from work is an impossible choice for far too many Americans who can barely make ends meet.
“Many nannies, who take care of our children, are still expected to show up to work or risk being fired without notice. House cleaners, who are cleaning and disinfecting our homes, are struggling to get protective supplies, and seeing a drastic increase in last-minute cancellations and some have already seen their income cut in half. Meanwhile, home care workers are working round the clock to care for some of the people most vulnerable to coronavirus, older people and people with chronic illnesses.”
According to NDWA and the Home Economics Report, 82 percent of domestic workers do not receive paid sick days. This makes workers much more likely to show up to work sick, raising the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to people whose immune systems simply can’t fight it off. If domestic workers practice social distancing or stay home because they’re showing symptoms, they’re likely to be fired–and lose all financial stability.
In the same Home Economics Report on firings of domestic workers, 22 percent of polled workers who had been fired reported the cause was taking time off from work, while 20 percent say their firing was due to missing work to care for themselves or a family member. A further 25 percent of workers report they were fired simply for requesting to take off work in the first place.
When crisis hits, low-income workers are often the first to be forgotten. They care for our families and our homes, often taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves, and yet, they often work without benefits, paid sick leave, or the ability to stock up on food and cleaning supplies, especially in the wake of panic-buying across the United States.
The Coronavirus Care Fund aims to raise $4 million in emergency relief funding to support 10,000 domestic workers and their families. Funds will be distributed through Alia, the platform NDWA built to help domestic workers build up paid time off and funds to pay for insurance. The funds will go directly to workers, allowing them the safety net they need to stay home, care for sick loved ones, care for themselves, and get access to disinfectants, cleaning supplies, and other safety equipment that will help to slow the spread of the virus.
In addition to the Care Fund, the NDWA also plans to introduce new legislature to protect domestic workers. The Essential Workers Bill of Rights, presented by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ro Khanna on April 13, calls for Congress to include health and safety protections, increased compensation and job protections, and childcare and paid family leave for essential workers. This Bill of Rights represents a long-term struggle for official recognition: if Congress moves to protect workers, it will be a huge victory representing years of effort.
“NDWA is now calling on Congress to act now to protect these workers, which include domestic workers who are essential in keeping families healthy and safe in this moment,” the NDWA writes in a statement. “Domestic workers, who are majority women of color and immigrants, are providing life-saving in-home services to the elderly, people with disabilities, and people with chronic illnesses. They are caring for the children of essential workers like health care professions. They are scrubbing homes and, now, workspaces to ensure we are in clean environments.”
“Care is a shared responsibility,” says Poo. “Our own health depends on the health of the person next to us, and the person next to them. Times like these remind us how connected we all are. We believe people will appreciate the opportunity to show care for the people who care for us.”
Fundraising officially opened on March 16th. To donate to the Coronavirus Care Fund, visit the ActBlue portal here.
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