Petition to Include Frontline Domestic Workers in California’s Vaccine Administration

County Supervisor Victor-Manuel Perez, Governor Gavin Newsom, Dr. Erica Pan & Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (Co-Chairs of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee), Dr. Cameron Kaiser (RivCo County Health Officer), and Kim Saruwatari, MPH, (RivCo University Hea

"Laundry Day" by Ramiro Gomez

Domestic workers are currently not included in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in California yet they are one of the most vulnerable and essential groups of workers.

As stated by the UCLA Labor Center, "domestic workers provide childcare, homecare, and housecleaning services to support families, individuals, older adults, and people with illnesses or disabilities. Essential to the functioning of our economy and a more caring and sustainable future, domestic workers ensure our children, aging grandparents, and loved ones who are managing chronic illnesses or disabilities receive the assistance they need to live healthy and dignified lives. However, this work remains largely excluded from basic employment protections and benefits that can ensure the health and safety of domestic workers."

And at the peak of a pandemic that is especially devastating domestic workers, they’ve been excluded from the present vaccine administration program.


Petition by
Juan Espinoza
Cathedral City, California

To: County Supervisor Victor-Manuel Perez, Governor Gavin Newsom, Dr. Erica Pan & Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (Co-Chairs of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee), Dr. Cameron Kaiser (RivCo County Health Officer), and Kim Saruwatari, MPH, (RivCo University Hea
From: [Your Name]

Dear Riverside County Supervisor Victor-Manuel Perez, Governor Gavin Newsom, Dr. Erica Pan & Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (Co-Chairs of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee), Dr. Cameron Kaiser (RivCo County Health Officer), and Kim Saruwatari, MPH, (RivCo University Health) —

We, the undersigned, urge you to include domestic workers in the current administration of the Covid-19 Vaccine in Riverside County and across the State of California by adjusting vaccination guidelines to include domestic workers that clean the homes of frontline healthcare workers (Doctors, Nurses, Medical Staff, etc.) and those of any other essential workers. Currently, domestic workers are not considered under the existing county guidelines even though they are likely one of the most vulnerable groups of essential workers that continue to work during this pandemic—entering private homes to assist older residents that depend on them, cleaning the homes of healthcare workers/doctors, entering recently inhabited Airbnb’s to quickly turn around rentals, providing financial support for their hurting families, facing severe job insecurity, and operating in often unsafe employment spaces where there are few if any worker protections.

Domestic workers are gravely at risk. In California (and in Riverside County especially), a majority are Latina immigrants, 77% work for low-wages (earning about half of what other hourly workers make), and they lack access to sick paid leave, unemployment (i), or any legal and economic protections (ii). The economic and emotional devastation (iii) felt by domestic workers during this pandemic has put them in a position where most are left with no protections under our health and safety laws (iv). For those who have not been discharged or suspended, without pay or benefits, during the pandemic, they have been forced to accept employer-dictated work conditions, often to the detriment of their health and that of their families. The lack of legal protections for domestic workers, especially during a time of economic upheaval, has augmented a power imbalance that has devastated immigrant women of color. The disproportionate burden felt by domestic workers who have not been seen as “essential workers” over the pandemic is a global phenomenon (v). But Riverside County, and California, must do better.

As expressed in a letter (vi) written to County Supervisor's Policy Advisor, Greg Rodriguez, on January 11, 2021, domestic workers are critical and essential. During this pandemic, they have supported families from afar as their loved ones pass away, assisted with groceries and bringing food to at-risk people, and provided critical mental and emotional support to elder clients facing the dire effects of isolation. Although these women often have chronic and severe underlying conditions due to systemic inequality producing barriers to healthcare, malnourishment, and environmental injustice, they continue to work in the homes of doctors, dentists, nurses, and many other medical practitioners that interact with Covid patients. This is particularly concerning in Riverside County, where 50% of frontline healthcare workers have refused the vaccine (vii).

Domestic workers often clean the homes of employers who do not believe in masking or who refuse to provide adequate safety protocols and PPE. They clean the homes of more affluent employers who are more prone to travel or have guests visiting from other parts of the country, often from high-spread urban areas looking for an escape in the desert. Meanwhile, domestic workers often live in multi-generational family homes and assist other family members with childcare, and many live in condensed housing where spatial limitations make quarantine impossible. This is all especially true for Latino immigrant communities in California. And, in part, is likely why Latinos are 39% of California’s population of 39.5 million residents, but account for 48% of COVID-19-confirmed deaths through December 2020 (viii).

Without going further into the milieu of stories and empirically proven dangers (ix) that these women are facing, we are pleading that elected officials, local health officials, hospital administrators, and all others engaged in deciding to whom administer the vaccine to promptly address this oversight and include domestic workers in current vaccination efforts. Given the present surge in cases among working-class Latinos in Riverside County (and California), the situation is dire.

We hope this can be resolved quickly.

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Footnotes:

i) Julia Paskin, California’s Domestic Workers Face Low Wages, Poor Working Conditions, LAIST (Dec. 13, 2020), https://laist.com/latest/post/20201213/dometic-workers-california-underpaid.

ii) Isa Gutierrez, Covid job losses devastate domestic workers, who are largely unseen, NBC NEWS (Dec. 17, 2020), https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/covid-job-losses-devastate-domestic-workers-who-are-largely-unseen-n1251407).
iii) David Segal, Housekeepers Face a Disaster Generations in the Making, NY TIMES (Sept. 18, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/business/housekeepers-covid.html.

iv) CAL. LABOR CODE §§ 6303, 6305, 6314, (codifying SB-1257: Employment safety standards for household domestic services), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB1257.

v) London School of Economics online event with Dr. Shalini Grover et al., Covid-19 and its Impact on Domestic Workers: continental perspectives on Argentina, India, and the United Kingdom, INTERNATIONAL INEQUALITIES INSTITUTE (Dec. 1, 2020), COVID-19 and its Impact on Domestic Workers: continental perspectives on Argentina, India, and the United Kingdom (lse.ac.uk).

vi) Letter from Juan Espinoza to Greg Rodriguez, Urgent Request: Vaccination for Domestic Workers / House Cleaners of Healthcare Workers in RivCo, Jan. 11 2021, https://drive.google.com/file/d/129kW8qgox-280WZKeUTB-36rm18ocJKB/view.

vii) Maria Sestito et al., Half of Riverside County hospital workers are declining COVID-19 vaccine, official says, DESERT SUN (Jan. 5, 2021), https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/health/2021/01/05/half-riverside-county-hospital-workers-refusing-covid-19-vaccine/4118966001/.

viii) Alicia R. Riley et al., Excess deaths among Latino people in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNIVERSITY OF CALIORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 19, 2020), https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.18.20248434v1.full.pdf.

ix) Julia Wolfe, Domestic workers are at risk during the coronavirus crisis, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE (Apr. 8, 2020), https://www.epi.org/blog/domestic-workers-are-at-risk-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-data-show-most-domestic-workers-are-black-hispanic-or-asian-women/.