LOS ANGELES – It was eight years in the making, but Filipino caregivers and their advocates can finally celebrate.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law last week, after two failed attempts in Sacramento.
California is the third state in the country, next to New York and Hawaii, that passed a measure of this kind. The law would require that caregivers get time and a half overtime pay for the number of hours worked past nine hours. The law would apply to workers who live and work in homes such as nannies and caretakers, regardless of immigration status. It is expected to cover about 100,000 people.
"It's a historic moment. I'm so proud of the work we've done to lift the issues of domestic workers and to work and fight so hard and come out of the shadows and become recognized as workers," said Aqui Soriano Versoza of the Pilipino Workers Center.
Advocates believe the law can create more jobs for caregivers because employers will be inclined to hire multiple caregivers instead of paying overtime pay to one overworked caregiver.
"Kung ayaw nilang magbayad ng overtime, merong papalit sa amin na another caregiver to work another 8 hours," said Nanette Manalo, a caregiver.
But in San Francisco, members of Migrante International said this is only partial victory. While the law ensures domestic workers get paid for the extra work, they said it does not cover all of their rights.
The law does not include the right of live-in employees to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, the right of live-in employees to adequate, decent and sanitary sleeping conditions, the right to meal and rest breaks, and the right to paid days after one year work with an employer.
"Syempre, nalungkot ako nung nalaman ko yan dahil sa hirap ng trabaho ng caregiver hindi naman biro yung hirap namin," said Victoria Aquino, a member of Migrante International.
She said one caregiver caring for six patients, round-the-clock, could put both caregiver and patients at risk.
Members of Migrante International said the fight is not over. They plan to talk to legislators to encourage them to pass new measures that would ensure domestic workers have the same rights as any other worker in America.
"Sa palagay ko kulang pa kasi sa dami-dami naming kahilingan sa nakatataas na nakaupo, bakit isa lang po ang ibinigay?" said another member of Migrante International, Rowena Viray.
"This is not enough. This is just like to pacify us pero itutuloy namin, hihingi kami ng karagdagang batas," added Edong Pichay, also a member of Migrante International.
The law will go into effect this January. Its provisions will be up for a renewal after 2017. At least seven other states in America are starting their own campaigns for similar legislation.