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On June 16, the members of AFIRE celebrated the International Domestic Workers Day to honor the life and experiences of domestic workers not only in Chicago, but also worldwide. AFIRE has almost 100 members all over Chicago including caregivers, babysitters, housekeepers, and nannies.
With the theme “Dignity and Decent Work for all National, Migrant, and Refugee Domestic Workers”, AFIRE members tackled the importance of raising awareness with regard to domestic workers’ rights and of uplifting the stories of domestic workers who are otherwise invisibilized or sidelined due to the private nature of their workplaces such as family households and care facilities.
In January of this year, the state of Illinois passed Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, making it the sixth state in the United States to issue legislation for the protection of domestic workers. The law protects the rights of domestic workers against low pay, poor workplace conditions, unjust employer treatment, and sexual and physical abuses.
There are more than 35,000 domestic workers in Illinois, and most of them are women, also undocumented. A recent survey conducted by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) had shown that domestic workers who encounter problems frequently feel too vulnerable to stand up for themselves, especially live-in workers and undocumented immigrants.
“We need to continue organizing and reaching out to domestic workers in Chicago and let them know about their rights as domestic workers, regardless of immigration status,” a member shared. “We also need to have dialogues with employers and employment agencies so that they could also be our allies in resisting oppression and injustices,” another member expressed.
The celebration of International Domestic Workers’ Day was a renewed commitment to keep fighting for the dignity and decent work for all domestic workers. “Domestic workers in Chicago are not alone!,” the members of AFIRE exclaimed, as they also expressed the need to reach out to as many domestic workers possible: at church, in restaurants, on the bus or train, through community centers.