ELIZABETH, NJ - Calls for a national Domestic Workers Bill of Rights have increased in Elizabeth since the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Rutgers Center for Women and Work released a report Wednesday on the exploitation of New Jersey’s domestic workers.
“I want everyone to read this report, I want them to know we are the engine of this country and the engine of this state,” said Evelyn, a domestic worker from Elizabeth, who spoke with TAPinto Elizabeth on the condition that her last name would not be published.
Evelyn is currently cleaning private homes, but worked for a temp agency earlier this year. Then she was diagnosed with COVID-19 after coming in contact with a client’s relative who was exhibiting symptoms but did not wear a mask.
“I was sick for about a month and a half and I couldn’t work for that entire time,” said Evelyn.
Like 49% of New Jersey domestic workers, Evelyn had no paid sick or vacation time. The Rutgers Center’s report surveyed over 400 New Jersey domestic workers in 2019 and found that domestic workers had very few safety guarantees.
“I would like for us not to be excluded from basic protections like minimum wage and safety,” she said. “I work extra hours without extra pay and will only get a small increase of around $1 for working holidays.”
According to the Rutgers survey, more than half of domestic workers experience some sort of wage theft. Domestic workers are also excluded from the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the 1970 law that protects the majority of workers in this country. Evelyn, like many of Elizabeth’s domestic workers, go to surrounding towns to work but are required to make their own transportation arrangements.
The pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have highlighted safety issues for many workers. This is especially true in a city like Elizabeth with a large immigrant population