Opinion | I am a domestic worker who was laid off because of the coronavirus


My family’s health is more important than anything right now. I try to stay positive, but I don’t know how long I can live like this.

Last week, I ran out of food. A friend who distributes food for domestic workers at the Miami Workers Center told me to drop by. Now my son and I are eating canned soup, small bags of rice, chicken and tuna cans. They gave me milk, water and spaghetti. This food will last us a week. You just have to get out of it.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance is raising funds to support domestic workers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus. Many of us do not qualify for the federal stimulus that sends checks to workers because we are not American citizens. The goal of the alliance is to raise $ 4 million for 10,000 caregivers, or $ 400 per person. Hopefully this money will arrive in a week. Although it is a help, it will not last long. I’m going to buy food first, then use whatever is left to pay part of my rent to my landlord.

The virus highlights how much domestic workers need protection, like everyone else. Nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers are not entitled to severance pay, paid sick leave, sickness and unemployment insurance or other benefits that would help us survive this. pandemic.

I wake up every day and worry about what will happen the next day, next week. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of it. Right now, I’m living day by day.

But I keep the faith. Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps the coronavirus will teach us that we need to change the system that considers domestic workers like me to be disposable. We still have time to change.

We need everyone to treat domestic workers like human beings. We deserve respect and a place at the table. Our work has value. Without us, you cannot do your job. Just as we need you to survive, you need us.

Melissa L. St. Hilaire is a home health aide. Devi Lockwood (@devi_lockwood) is a member of the Times Opinion section.

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