Do we care?

Local activists push for better recognition for caregiving professions

Lil Milagro Martinez (left) wants all domestic workers to be treated with the same respect she afford to the nanny of her son.

Teresa Molina faced abusive, belittling treatment on the job.

The 52-year-old immigrant from Sinaloa, Mexico, says she was paid $500 a month to provide 24-hour, live-in care to a girl in a wheelchair and her family. She wasn't allowed regular breaks. She couldn't eat what she wanted. Even her sleep was disrupted.

"I spoke up a couple times, but when I did, my employer told me I was dumb and good for nothing," Molina, speaking Spanish through a translator, told us. "She would ask my immigration status, and I said that was not important, but she used that as a threat."

Molina is a domestic worker — one of the only two professions (the other being farm work) exempt from federal labor standards.

Her experience, a common one among immigrant women in California, prompted Molina to get involved in last year's California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights campaign, part of national effort that resulted in the first-ever protections being signed into law in New York in 2010.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the California version of the bill late on the night of Sept. 30, 2012, the deadline for signing legislation, citing the paternalistic concern that better pay and working conditions might translate into fewer jobs or fewer hours for domestic workers.

"I was offended by how he did it, in the middle of the night on the last day, and he basically trivialized it," Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who sponsored the measure, told us. "Here in California, it's a major workforce, but there's no rules and there's a documented history of abuses."

But if anything, Brown's veto has energized local activists, who say the battle for domestic worker rights is part of a much larger issue that women, children, immigrants, and their supporters are struggling against as they try to get society to value one of the most basic of social and economic functions: caring and caregiving.

Those in the caregiving professions are used to such defeats, but this one seems to be galvanizing and uniting several parallel movements — most of which have a strong presence here in the Bay Area — that want to apply human values and needs to an economic system that has never counted them.

It is, economists and policy experts say, a profoundly different way to measure economic output — and if the domestic workers and their allies succeed, it could have long-term implications for national, state, and local policy.



There are endless examples of how society undervalues caring and caregiving and other labor that has long been deemed "women's work." They range from nurses fighting for fair contracts to in-home support service workers fighting for their jobs. Many are jobs that have traditionally been done in the home — and in some cases, not counted at all as part of the Gross Domestic Product.

Social work, teaching, administrative support, caring for children or seniors, community organizing, and other jobs held predominantly by women and people of color are consistently among the lowest paid professions.

But the demand for those jobs is increasing — and the price of under-investing in education, caregiving, and child development is decreased productivity and increased crime and other costs for decades to come — so activists say they are critical to the nation's future.

"It's a different perspective. Caregiving isn't transactional the way we think about other jobs," said Alicia Garza, executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), which has joined with other organizations nationwide for a Caring Across Generations campaign. "We're a nation that has a growing aging population with no plan for how we're going to take care of these people."


(and there's some fairly stiff competition).

So the Lilli theory of economic development is that high taxes generates more prosperity because it accelerates the transfer of money from one hand to another?

Brilliant. So all we have to do to achieve unlimited wealth is tax each other ever higher amounts. The resultant velocity of money represents (in your twisted mind anyway) a triumph of econmic success.

Yes, we can quite simply tax ourselves into wealth. Why did nobody else think of that?

Oh wait, because it is evident nonsense.

"Possessions make the possessor poorer"? What kind of skewed, distorted, self-contradictory mind could come up with such total oxymoronic crap?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

Lilli is correct; taxing those that HAVE the money stimulates the economy if it is distributed to those who don't, because they will spend it, and the multiplier effect will grow the economy. When wealth is hoarded, the whole community is made poorer, and unless you live on the Moon, that includes you.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

money in our society is somehow fixed, and therefore that taking it from one person and giving it to another person is "fairer" without having any downside.

That overlooks the fact that money can be generated and so the supply of it is not fixed. If I am generating wealth (say by building a business and hiring people) and then you come along and tell me that I have to pay 60% tax on it, then I will probably expand less. Or move my business somewhere else.

So your idea that we can all become rich by taxing ourselves more is predicated on a myth i.e. that the amount of wealth is society is a fixed quantity.

The vast majority of economist agree that hight axes kill enterprise and make society poorer and weaker.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

Generating wealth is not the same thing as generating new money, currency.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

or hiring employees. Your employees generate wealth by their productivity as do you for whatever you put into your business. Most businessmen also try to profit off the productivity of their employees; they attempt to feed off them. This is viewed as perfectly normal -- above reproach.

No thought can even be given to any premise except "employers generate wealth"? Absurd.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

Employers do the organizing which with the work of the employees generates wealth for them in the form of profits and wages, which is money shifted from the columns of others into theirs, subtracting from their wealth.

That is zero sum.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

It merely shuffles existing wealth about?

Do any of you guys actually have a real job in a real business?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:32 am

Apple's pile of cash came from its customers.

Apple's production of appealing products shifted wealth from the pockets of their customers into the pockets of Apple with a tiny sliver going to the capitalists over at FoxConn and an even tinier sliver of that going to their workers who manage to not commit suicide.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:02 am

flow of wealth from overseas to the US, increasing our prosperity.

In particular, the Bay Area benefits from the many millionaires that have been created from their staff and shareholders.

Only a real hater of success would find fault there.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:26 am

The US current account grows by the amount that foreign dollar accounts shrink, however the amount of money in the system remains static unless banks create more credit.

It is not like any of us benefit whenever the US current account grows, especially when international firms like Apple maintain profits offshore to avoid domestic tax liability.

Note that the USG, alone with the government of Eritrea asserts the right to tax citizens working abroad, while the USG allows American companies to avoid tax on revenues by maintaining those funds abroad.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:35 am

having the best companies and brand names on the planet.

You won't be happy until America is a basketcase, and SF is like Detroit.

When did failure become a "San Francisco value".

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:20 am

It is a zero sum game, wealth is not created, it is shifted.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:51 am

create anything. It is much easier to find a minimum wage earner than it is to find someone with a great idea AND the capital to make it happen.

That is why our society rewards the guy with ideas and capital more than some shlub that does what he is told and never has a buck to his name.

Our system really isn't that hard to understand.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:46 am

Let's not be naive: the unprecedented wealth of this nation comes directly from stolen land and slave labor. Wealth is generated by labor, not "investment." Today, we can build the business ourselves, pay back the costs, and start sharing the profits. Who needs a "capitalist?"

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

enough back in time, any given parcel of land probably belonged to somebody else.

But since the advent of property law and titles, the ownership of land is recorded and transferred under the law.

At this point, the accrued wealth from slavery is trivial. Indeed, our economy is very comparable to similar countries that never had slavery, like Canada and Australia, indicating that the present day effect is minimal.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:34 am

Oh, but that were true, Guesty.
There would be no "America" without genocide and slavery,
so it is not possible to "go far enough back in time" to erase the effect
free land and free labor had in shaping our economy. Simply put, the "USA" would not even exist, or indeed it might be about the size of Canada or Australia's (both of which also practiced genocide and slavery, history buff). Euros don't like to work any more than any other ethnic group, otherwise they wouldn't have had to force other people to do it.
The only way to "render the present day effect minimal" would be
to make the robber barons and their running-dogs give back what was stolen. The advent of property titles should make the transfer backwards easier. Reparations for all people of Native American or African descent. Jubilee for all poor whites. We won't take the money and put it in a risky "financial instrument" or Swiss bank account. Rather, we will immediately spend it on food, shelter, clothing, drugs, hookers, and hopefully locally-made consumer goods, stimulating the economy, re-building America, and it should be all good from there.....

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:23 am

Even at the time, it was only a significant force in the agricultural south, and rarely represented more than 10% of the total economy.

Moreover, as noted, similar coutnries like Australia and Canada developed similar pro-capital economies without mass slavery, again indicating the effect is far less than often cited.

Anyone who feels they were disadvantaged can sue companies and people descened from those who practiced slavery, although it was elgal at the time and so such lawsuits are limited in their validity.

We should also note that those who descended from slavery are now far richer than those who did not relocate to the US.

Slavery is mainly thrown out there now by people using it as an excuse for special treatment. But the nation has moved on and has little patience for those who still try and play the race card for personal gain.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:32 am

The "race card" is played everyday in this country;
you are playing it now and accusing others of doing it.

So all the slaves did was to feed a growing nation with labor-subsidized food, which allowed the USA to fight off invasions by England, France, and Canada?

Revisionist history can be made up on the spot. I suggest reading a couple of history books not written by apologists for Empire.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:09 am

Obviously it did, else your ancestors would not have engaged in it.

So yes, it's possible to ascribe some economic benefit to it. But, as noted, the net benefit to the US is far less than often claimed and, had we not done it, we'd be more like Canada or Australia that aren't that different from us anyway.

But hey, if you want a one-man self-pity party for the privileges you inherited from slavery, even if only maeginal, then knock yourself out. Some people feel guilt for stuff they've never done and maybe that's you.

Me? I have more important things to reflect upon. Non issue. Move on.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:24 am

The seed capital that fueled the US startup was provided by slave labor, the descendants of those slaves have been kept in a position of economic, social and economic inferiority for a century after slavery ended.

But in this libertarian world of no regulation but tort recovery to resolve all disputes, the law is trotted in to absolve perps and their descendents holding stolen, slave wealth, of any responsibility.

The truth is that the libertarian world view sees most all of us as as little more than slaves, perhaps serfs if we're lucky.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:56 am

"But, as noted, the net benefit to the US is far less than often claimed and, had we not done it, we'd be more like Canada or Australia that aren't that different from us anyway." So this is true because you say so? Not even a link to a nutzo website to back up your claims? And you are going to make 500 years of occupation, slavery, and genocide disappear by decree?
Your obvious guilt over the issue is a good sign;
maybe you'll come to your senses before the Revolution.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 9:04 am

Running-dogs? Really?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 7:49 am

Always fascinates me when white liberals pretend to care about blacks while making sure that they personally live west of 82nd Street in PDX.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:18 am

Actually, more like lapdogs.....

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 10:35 am

"Today, we can build the business ourselves, pay back the costs, and start sharing the profits. " That is freedom. That happens in America, and very few other places. Get started. No one is stopping you, and that is the greatness of America.

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 9:19 am

Have done.
Have you?

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 10:33 am

People in most other countries in the world are free to start businesses; indeed, most people in the world are independent contractors or otherwise self-employed. Meanwhile, the SBA or local chamber of commerce will tell you that MOST business start-ups fail, so I am not at all sure it is responsible to suggest a person should endeavor to become an "entrepreneur."

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 10:43 am