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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Protections proposed in Washington Senate for domestic workers

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 28, 2020

After introducing Gov. Jay Inslee at a rally Monday in Olympia, Adriana Cazorla, center, stands with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, in the Capitol Rotunda. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
After introducing Gov. Jay Inslee at a rally Monday in Olympia, Adriana Cazorla, center, stands with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, in the Capitol Rotunda. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
Daisy Zavala

OLYMPIA – In 2007, Adriana Cazorla, was working as a maid for an employer who held her against her will and sexually assaulted her, she said Monday as the Senate began considering a bill to protect domestic workers.

Cazorla said this same employer also took explicit photos of young women by posing as the owner of a modeling agency. But he was actually selling the photos to other men. Cazorla said when she discovered what he was doing, he threatened to call immigration officers if she reported him.

“I’m not scared anymore, a long time ago … I couldn’t tell my story,” said Cazorla, a former domestic worker who now has a green card and is a legal resident.

Domestic workers would be protected against retaliation by employers as well as from threats or other intimidation tactics under a bill being considered by the state Senate. It would also require a written agreement regarding employment terms, plus two to four weeks notice for termination depending on whether they are live-in workers.

“This is a group of workers that too often are made invisible, but do critical work that is highly valued by families across our state,” said bill sponsor Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle.

Cazorla was in Olympia to share her story with lawmakers and put a face to the issue of the sometimes dangerous conditions domestic workers undertake as they try to earn a living.

She told of working for a couple, including a man who said she had to clean naked while his wife was away. Cazorla said she was threatened with a call to immigration if she told anyone.

Before that incident, Cazorla had worked many long hours for that couple. She said they treated her poorly, not allowing her to come in through the main door, speak or use the bathroom.

“It wasn’t fair that they were treating me like an animal,” she said. “We all have rights and we all have a right to be treated with dignity.”

Under the bill, domestic workers would be guaranteed minimum wage along with lunch and work breaks, and employers would not be allowed to confiscate personal documents.

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committe held a public hearing on the bill Monday.

Noah Reandeau said he supports protections for domestic workers, but the bill would take away affordable childcare through the Au Pair program, which connects young people from other countries to American host families seeking childcare help.

Reandeau proposed the bill be amended to exempt au pair workers. In its current form, the bill would have unintended consequences for Washington host families who would go from paying $196 to $600 a week, he said.

“That’s an extra $1,800 a month that would be taken from each of our families with no added benefit,” Reandeau said.

Emily Ascolese, an Au Pair host mom, agreed that host families should be exempt because the program serves as an “exchange student” option for young people who don’t go to college but want an experience abroad.

“An Au Pair has zero expenses, we pay for everything,” she said. “Everything they make is on top of everything being paid for.”

After the committee hearing, more than 100 supporters joined a rally in the Capitol Rotunda with Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Cazorla, who introduced Inslee to the crowd, said many domestic workers are suffering and laws need to change to protect them.

“If we don’t talk about everything that is happening, they won’t realize it,” she said. “I also have children … I also contribute to this country and I shouldn’t be treated like this.”

Editor’s note: Noah Reandeau’s comments were clarified from an early version of this story, to make clear he was talking only about amending the bill to exempt au pair workers.

Daisy Zavala, who is bilingual, interviewed Adriana Cazorla in Spanish and translated her comments for this story.

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