Tag Archives: immigration justice

Grantee Profile: Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance

Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance members celebrate in April after the first City Council hearing on a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

“I thank Bread & Roses for their generous support, which we will use to keep fighting for our rights to win respect, dignity, equality, and identity through our domestic workers’ bill of rights.”

Maria del Carmen Diaz, PWDA member

Domestic workers have been excluded from nearly all the landmark federal laws protecting workers’ rights. There is no minimum wage for domestic work, nor any guarantee of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers don’t have a right to unionize. But in recent decades, domestic workers across the country have organized to win victories that make their work safer and their lives richer. Now, a new organization, the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance (PDWA), joins the national fight.

PDWA members at a press conference outside City Hall

“We represent the 16,000 domestic workers in Philadelphia,” says Maria del Carmen Diaz, a member of PDWA. The worker-led organization launched as a joint project of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and the National Domestic Workers Alliance late last summer after a yearlong discernment process. They received a grant from Bread & Roses’ Immigration Justice Fund this spring.

Nicole Kligerman, director of PDWA, explains their strategy: “We’re bringing together women workers across language, race, and immigration status and fighting for a domestic workers’ bill of rights that will expand worker protections. We’re pushing a big campaign in city hall, but we’re also building community and developing leaders among domestic workers who are by nature of their work isolated.”

The majority of domestic workers are women of color, and many are immigrants. Diaz is one of 15 workers on the organizing committee. “On behalf of all of us, I thank Bread & Roses for their generous support, which we will use to keep fighting for our rights to win respect, dignity, equality, and identity through our domestic workers’ bill of rights.”

Funding the Fight for Immigration Justice

“There’s a history of anti-immigration sentiment even when the states were colonies,” says Fernando Chang-Muy, professor of immigration and refugee law at Penn Law. “Actually, the beginning is anti-German feeling.” Benjamin Franklin spoke out against German immigrants, asking in 1751, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”

Racially based fear of newcomers fueled policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States and was not repealed until 1943. “We have a history of both accepting people from other countries into our territory and we have a very sad, horrible history of turning people away,” notes Chang-Muy. “You might have ancestors who tried to come in. They were stopped at the border, Ellis Island, they were checked for diseases and other things like communism, and if any of those things were found they were excluded.” Within our borders, immigrants have faced forced relocation, incarceration, separation from family members, and other violence.

Group of people marching in the street with signs

Immigrants and allies march May 1 to end mass incarceration and detention and to demand reinvestment in communities. Photo by Joe Piette.

Immigrant rights advocate Ana Lisa Yoder traces the thread of this history to today. “Immigrants and refugees have been under attack for a long time, but in the last year and a half, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in policies and practices that dehumanize, violate human rights, and are creating long-lasting trauma in whole communities,” she says. “Ground-up strategies that centralize the voices of those directly impacted are imperative to creating meaningful change. If we ever needed movements for immigration justice, it is now.”

The next Giving Project at Bread & Roses, which begins in September, will raise money and make grants through a special Immigration Justice Fund. Yoder explains why she chose to join this Giving Project: “My uncle, who was a civil rights activist, died recently. I’ve been thinking a lot about him, what he might have been doing in this moment, and what more I can do to work for justice as he did.” The deadline to apply for a grant from the Immigration Justice Fund is October 12.

Yoder is keen to meet and begin work with her fellow Giving Project members. “I believe deeply in the power of collective action,” she says. “Having participated in traditional grantmaking over the years, the idea of ordinary people building power through grassroots fundraising gives me hope for change — so very needed in these times.”