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On Tuesday, August 8, AFIRE Chicago rallied together with National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) and Interfaith Worker Justice in solidarity with Damayan Migrant Workers Association to demand justice for Edith Mendoza and Sherile Pahagas, two Filipina domestic workers abused and exploited by German Diplomat Pit Koehler and his wife Mareike Koehler in New York. AFIRE and fellow community organizations rallied in front of the Consulate General of Germany in Chicago to hold a press conference, where community members and domestic workers themselves voiced their outrage over the injustices set against Edith and Sherile.
Olola Ann Olib, an AFIRE member and domestic worker, spoke out at the rally, “All domestic worker rights must be respected, regardless of race. It is because they see us [Filipinos] as third world people, that they feel they can abuse us like this. The violations against Edith and Sherile are wrong, and if we leave this uncorrected, it will become the precedent for future abuse committed against domestic workers.”
Just recently, AFIRE and coalition partners, celebrated the passing of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Law in Illinois, effective since January 1, 2017. At the rally, Sally Richmond, AFIRE member and domestic worker spoke out about the need to stay informed, “All domestic workers have to be united, so that we know our rights, and now that we have passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in Illinois, we have to stand together and keep fighting the injustices against our domestic worker community. Filipino domestic workers in Illinois, please consider joining AFIRE in the continued fight for domestic worker justice."
Following the Chicago rally, organization representatives were unable to deliver their letter statement to the Consul General of Germany in Chicago. They were refused entry, despite attempts made to secure an appointment. Organizers called for continued pressure, urging community to make calls to the Midwest German Vice Counsel Maddy Potzel at (312)202-6709, asking for justice.
We at AFIRE Chicago, demand that the Koehlers be held responsible for stripping Edith and Sherile of their basic human rights and be held accountable for their treatment of domestic workers. Domestic workers are not alone, and must be vigilant in knowing their rights so that abuse in the workplace cease to exist. AFIRE is currently working hard to implement the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights law by ensuring that it is not only made aware to domestic workers themselves, but enforced by employers as well.