An April survey from the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 80% of domestic workers said they’d lost either some or all work in the first weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic, leaving their households in turmoil since many are primary breadwinners for their families. But as astounding as that number is, a new survey released by the organization’s We Dream in Black program and Institute for Policy Studies shows the crisis has been even more dire for some Black domestic workers.
“70 percent of the Black immigrant domestic workers surveyed have either lost their jobs (45 percent) or received reduced hours and pay (25 percent),” We Dream in Black and Institute for Policy Studies said in key findings. Among workers in Florida, Massachusetts, and New York, “Miami-Dade has been hit hardest, with 93 percent of respondents either having been terminated (83 percent) or working fewer hours with less pay (9 percent).”
Lydia, a caregiver and mom of three in Boston, said during a Tuesday press call announcing the survey results that her employer’s spouse called her on a Friday telling her to not come to work due to the governor’s sheltering order. “They would let me know when I could return to work,” she said. “It has been almost a month now.” Lydia said during the call that she was let go without any other notice, or any unemployment help. “I feel like right now, I’m in a limbo.”
She said that the family was getting by with her husband’s income—until he became sick with COVID-19. “This is all added to the financial and emotional stress we are under,” she said. National Domestic Workers Alliance Black organizing director Aimée-Josiane Twagirumukizam said in a statement received by Daily Kos that stories like those of Lydia shine a light on the fact that “Black domestic workers are facing a pandemic within a larger pandemic.”
The research found that nationally, “65 percent of respondents said that they are fearful or at risk of eviction or utility shut off in the next three months. Among the three locations surveyed, Miami-Dade workers are most vulnerable, with 90 percent of respondents reporting being at risk of eviction or having their utilities shut off.” Nearly half said that seeking federal relief was not an option: “Among all respondents, 49 percent are fearful of seeking assistance or resources from the federal, state, or local government due to their immigration status.”
“Black domestic workers have stretched their dollars to keep the lights on after losing jobs and income,” Twagirumukizam continued. “Some of them have been sick or experienced loss in their families. All of them have experienced these challenges while also facing the impact of police violence on their community. We must recognize the reality of this moment for Black women and their families and ensure that they receive the relief they deserve, while also ending police violence by defunding police departments.”
Other recent research has shown that Black and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. “Thirty percent of black adults and 26% of Latino adults in the country said they know a victim of the coronavirus, who died either from the disease or from complications related to the virus,” ABC News/Ipsos reported last month. “For white adults, the corresponding figure is 10%.” In the domestic workers survey, “In all three locations, 25 percent have experienced or live with someone who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms.”
“Black, immigrant, woman, and low-wage workers make up a huge portion of essential workers, and have kept our communities safe during this crisis. But they’re also some of the most invisible and vulnerable workers in our country,” the National Domestic Workers Alliance said in a series of tweets. “As we protest, organize and dream a new world into existence, we fight for a world where domestic workers—particularly Black domestic workers—can live in safety and dignity. When Black women are free, we are all free.”