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‘$15 an hour is not enough’: US domestic workers rally on eve of midterms

As America heads to the polls, representatives of the more than 2 million workers in domestic jobs – from caring for the sick, elderly and disabled to cleaning homes – are making a last-minute midterms push to make sure their voices are heard.

Diondre Clarke, a certified nursing assistant in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been canvassing in nearby Winston-Salem to boost voter turnout in the critical swing state.

She said: “This election cycle, there’s just so much … it’s like a big bombshell, with wages, the economy, inflation and healthcare. We really have to do something, we have to do better.

“We need to make more money because the cost of living is going up. Fifteen dollars an hour, that’s still not enough – and there are still places that have not even got to $15 an hour.

“We’re struggling. It’s very hard, and I want voters to think about it and make the choice to go to the polls and cast their vote.”

She criticized Republican proposals to raise the social security age to 70, given how long she has worked. She also urged voters to elect candidates who can identify with everyday workers just trying to make a living and the issues affecting them, such as needing better healthcare and sick pay.

Nearly all – 91.5% – of domestic workers are women, and over 52% are Black, Hispanic or Asian American/Pacific Islander. Clark is one of hundreds of domestic workers who are getting involved with organizing through Care in Action, a non-profit founded in 2017.

The group is leading campaigns involved in door-to-door canvassing and other voter turnout efforts such as phone banking in Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina, supporting candidates who favor policies such as paid sick leave, paid childcare, better wages, healthcare expansion, and immigration rights, with a focus on enabling workers to directly speak with voters and boost turnout in these key election battles. The group is also engaged in efforts in Arizona, South Carolina, Virginia and Michigan.

“These workers, they’re the best messengers. So we decided to fly our domestic workers out to Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, to have conversations with thousands of voters,” said Hillary Holley, the executive director of Care in Action.

The group has endorsed numerous candidates in seven battleground states, including Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, Raphael Warnock for US Senate in Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto for US Senate in Nevada. Holley said the group is focusing on Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia because she expects these high-profile races will come down to a slim margin.

“Our voters want our elected officials to have a plan on how to help restore and improve our economy, which they know is being fueled by corporate greed with record profits,” added Holley

“Our workers are going to be able to look voters in the eyes and say, we know it’s hard, but we have to vote for the people who actually have a plan. Because when you listen to a lot of the Republican candidates, they don’t have a plan, they like to talk about inflation, but they don’t like to present a plan on how to address it promptly.”

Patricia Sauls of Atlanta, Georgia, who works in family care and childcare and has done various care work from babysitting as a teenager to working in group homes, is canvassing this election in Columbus, Georgia, with Care in Action and has volunteered to be a poll worker for the first time.

“Ever since the January 6 event, it’s been amplified how fragile our democracy really is,” said Sauls. “Georgia is really important to our national effort this year, more important than ever before because we have so many people on the ballot, election deniers, running for positions of authority over elections that they claim they have no confidence in.”

Sauls explained though she is nearly 70, she has been on waiting lists for years for home care support through Medicaid, and is pushing for Medicaid expansion. She is also concerned about abortion restrictions in the wake of the Roe v Wade reversal, economic issues and threats to democracy since the Capitol insurrection.

“It’s important for my future, for the future of those coming behind, to do everything I can to make sure that our democratic system stays in place,” she said.


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