Oakland -- While the bill she coauthored lingers in the state Senate Appropriations Committee, a San Francisco assemblywoman took on the role of a domestic worker Tuesday to highlight the need for regulation in the industry.
Fiona Ma, assemblywoman for the 12th District, walked Nikki Brown-Booker's service dog around her North Oakland neighborhood in an attempt to be a domestic worker for a day and build support for AB 889.
The bill, which Ma co-authored with 13th District (San Francisco) Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, seeks to regulate the working conditions for domestic employees.
Brown-Booker, who uses an electric wheelchair to move around, employs six domestic workers to care for her and noted that Ma's work is only a small portion of what they do to assist her in her day-to-day living.
"They help me get out of bed, help me get dressed in the morning, they walk the dog, they make me breakfast," said Brown-Booker, who invited Ma to her home because, "I just really wanted people to see what domestic workers do and how important their work is to people with disabilities and their families."
Even though domestic workers can serve as caretakers, cooks or housekeepers, their wages and time allowed off is up to the discretion of their employer.
The bill, filed in 2011, wants to expand regular breaks, paid sick days and overtime for employees.
"Many cannot take a day off if they're sick. Meanwhile, they're in charge of taking care of our most vulnerable, elderly and disabled. If they get sick, they have to go work," Ma said.
Despite Ma's efforts to generate support, the bill is opposed by nearly 100 health and home-care organizations.
"It imposes onerous wage and hour obligations on individual homeowners that will discourage such homeowners from retaining the services of 'domestic work employees,'" said Jennifer Barrera, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, in an official statement.
The Chamber of Commerce opposes the legislation because of the "costly" penalties it would impose on employers. AARP is against the bill for similar reasons and is currently seeking to get it amended.
"I think the opposition, in general, doesn't want to be regulated," Ma said. "People want to hire someone and just do what they want and not act like a business or an employer. But they are. People who are employing other people to have them around their house are employers and should be subject to the same rules and regulations that other employers are."
The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.