April 5, 2023
As home care workers and family child care providers, there is one thing that unites us – we are domestic workers. We are the United Domestic Workers of America, after all, which means that we don’t just care about and fight for the wages of IHSS providers and family child care workers in California: we have a responsibility to help empower domestic workers everywhere.
That’s why UDW is proud to partner with the International Domestic Workers Federation, or IDWF. The IDWF is a membership-based global organization of domestic workers and a key advocate for domestic workers’ rights throughout the world. UDW Executive Director Doug Moore sits on the executive committee of the IDWF representing North America.
Last month, Doug flew to Tanzania for the 2023 IDWF African Pre-Congress. A Pre-Congress is a gathering of a particular IDWF region (in this case, Africa) in preparation for the global IDWF Congress happening this October in Belgium. The Pre-Congress was attended by domestic workers from South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, Togo, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Burkina, Benin, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Congo, Madagascar, Botswana, and Zanzibar. IDWF members at the Pre-Congress spoke many languages, including Swahili, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Arabic.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Doug, after spending the week speaking with and learning from the domestic workers in attendance. Doug’s job was to facilitate a workshop on writing resolutions and how to make constitutional amendments—something UDW members who attend our union’s convention are no strangers to!
The most impactful moments came, Doug said, when domestic workers from Tanzania and Namibia performed skits about how to handle common experiences faced by domestic workers in their home countries. One skit was about fighting against gender-based violence and sexual assault, and what happens when an employer refuses to pay you. The other skit, called “Walk With Me” covered how to recruit fellow domestic workers to your union at places like the grocery store and at bus stops.
It might seem like our experiences as home care providers and family child care workers in California are vastly different from those of our union siblings halfway around the world, but there are many common threads. In 2018, UDW members passed a law to help protect IHSS providers who experience sexual harassment on the job. And, when our union was founded, organizers and members had to find domestic workers the exact same way as domestic workers in Namibia today—at the Horton Plaza bus stop in downtown San Diego!
As the week came to a close, IDWF members from several countries thanked UDW for our leadership and help. As with all worker movements, we are stronger together—and we can’t wait to see them again!
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