Domestic Workers’ Corner: Research Fellow Gives Unique Insight of Domestic Workers Making Change with Their Data!

by Anne Ryan|Communications Associate

Christina Fletes, Research Fellow at DataCenter, is leading the National Domestic Worker Survey that began last year. Christina, the daughter of a domestic worker, sat down with DataCenter to give us an update on the project and how it’s going.

DataCenter: What stage is DataCenter’s Domestic Worker Project at right now?

Christina Fletes: Currently, we are wrapping up the surveyor trainings that must happen in each of the 14 cities participating in the survey. And some of our organizations have already started fielding the survey.

DC: What does fielding mean?

CF: Fielding is when we’re out in the field conducting the survey. We have domestic workers themselves going out and finding other domestic workers to take the survey.

DC: How are they going to find other domestic workers?

CF: Aside from going into their own neighborhoods and talking to their own friends, some domestic workers have participated in outreach strategy sessions. In these sessions they decided to look at bus routes, train routes, parks and book stores where they might find nannies, community centers, churches, ESL classes and putting up fliers.

DC: Recently you’ve been traveling to cities across the U.S. training domestic workers to do the survey. Can you tell me about your experiences with that?

CF: It’s been great! I’ve gone to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego. In the coming weeks I’ll be in San Jose and Denver.  It has been so beautiful to have many different languages at the trainings. [*Note: The survey will be shared in 14 languages total!] For example, in Los Angeles, we had Boots from the Pilipino Worker Center. The entire training was led in Spanish, which she did not speak. But as  I translated to English for her, I could tell that she knew the importance of this work and was very engaged in the entire training. I saw the same thing in San Francisco, where we had five different organizations participate. Translations were happening from Spanish to English to Tagolog, but everyone was still there together and united. The other participants were so impressed by Fawny from Chinese for Affirmative Action, that they all took the time to thank her for her presence even though she participated through a translator the entire time.

I also heard from many of the domestic workers that it was empowering to know that this isn’t just a research project where some stranger talks to them and then they never hear about the it again. They really appreciated the fact that they are doing the research for themselves and will be able to do what they want with the data.

DC: So thanks to the hard work of domestic workers and DataCenter’s research support, a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights passed last year in New York State. What other domestic worker campaigns are gaining momentum around the country?

CF: Well, currently California introduced a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in February and it has successfully passed the Assembly. It was a huge victory that everyone is really excited about. There are domestic worker organizations from all across the state working on this campaign. DataCenter was happy to support the campaign by providing necessary statistics that were presented at the Labor Committee hearing. We’re hoping that by October we’ll have a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights signed into law. The next step is the Senate. And then after that the Governor should sign it!

DC: What great news! Has there been international attention for domestic worker rights recently?

CF: Yes! On June 16, the International Labor Conference (ILC) passed a convention  recognizing domestic work as “work”. (Read more about the ILC’s Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers .) This is the first time that it’s been recognized as work. Domestic work isn’t always seen as real work for many reasons: its history of slavery, its racialized nature, its feminized nature and also the fact that it’s in a private space and not a public space. Usually when we think of work, we see it as something that happens in the public setting. So this was a huge victory and hopefully it can help whatever campaigns come in the future for Domestic Worker rights.

DC: Are there any challenges you’re facing in the project right now?

CF: Yes. The survey project is representative of the domestic worker population in each city (determined by the U.S. Census). That means we’re interviewing workers who are black/African American, Asian, Latino and white. A lot of the domestic worker groups primarily organize Latino workers, and they’re having a really hard time thinking of outreach strategies to white workers. To mitigate these challenges were doing some background research on white workers, and talking to volunteers and advisors who can help us think of outreach strategies. Domestic worker groups in various cities are also coming up with their own solutions. They’re going to community colleges and laundromats with fliers. It’s great to see that while DataCenter is considering solutions, the domestic worker groups themselves have been inspired to find solutions.

DC: One last question, Ms. Fletes: if you had a nickel for every time you’ve said “domestic workers” in the past year, how much money would you have?

CF: Enough so that all Domestic Workers across the globe could be very well paid!

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