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New report: Pandemic exposed Black immigrant domestic workers to exploitation, wage theft, lack of safety

NEW YORK CITYToday, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), in partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) Black Worker Initiative, released a report showing the continued exploitation, safety hazards, and insecurity felt by Black immigrant domestic workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Entitled ‘The Other Side of the Storm,’ the report found that the pandemic exposed already vulnerable workers to new dangers while perpetuating the mistreatment and lack of standards experienced by domestic workers before the pandemic began. ‘The Other Side of the Storm’ also shares what Black immigrant domestic workers want and need to feel supported in their lives and careers and calls for Congress to pass a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights as a solution to fortify our care infrastructure and economy,  while providing relief to this workforce during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

‘The Other Side of the Storm’ is a follow-up to NDWA and IPS’s initial ‘Notes from the Storm’ report, which examined the experiences of Black immigrant domestic workers in Miami, New York, and Massachusetts just as the pandemic hit in 2020. ‘The Other Side of the Storm’ returned to these regions in 2021 and features data and anecdotes from surveys, focus groups, and interviews of more than 1,000 respondents. 

Findings include: 

  • 37% reported having difficulty finding new work during the pandemic. 
  • 50% of respondents have to work in environments where they or others have COVID. 
  • In 2020, 65% feared eviction or disruption of utility services. By February 2021, 41% confirmed that their fears had actualized. 
  • 68% work without an employment contract, with undocumented workers more likely to work without one (80%). 
  • 78% have not received benefits from their employers, such as paid time off or paid medical or health insurance. 
  • 57% of survey respondents identified health insurance as the benefit they most desire. 

“Black immigrant domestic workers were classified as ‘essential’ in the beginning of the pandemic yet two years later are still waiting for the rights, benefits, and protections that society affords other workers,” said NDWA executive director Jenn Stowe. “It is time we take action to ensure the strength and resilience of this sector by supporting Black immigrant workers.” 

“During the pandemic, Black immigrant domestic workers have provided essential services and made vital contributions to the care economy, risking their lives. Two years later, instead of getting vital protections and pay and benefits that reflect those risks on the job, they’re still getting the short end of the stick,” said co-author Marc Bayard, director of the Black Worker Initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Our report gives a voice to their struggles with both the pandemic and systemic racism. There are critical actions our government can and must right now take to ensure that they have dignity, safety, and fair compensation and benefits for the work they do. It’s the least they deserve.” 

Workers also anecdotally reported lack of employer flexibility, the deadly conditions they work in, and the need for health care for domestic workers. 

“Two workers I know have died,” reported June, an elder care worker and NDWA organizer. “One worker got COVID at work from her boss’s children. She was from Haiti and undocumented and didn’t have health insurance. She was afraid to go to the hospital and she died. We buried her.”  

“Domestic workers deserve to have the same privileges as other workers, like health insurance,” said Barbara, a Boston-based nanny. “A lot of us don’t have that. Everything others get in other professions like health care and paid time off, we should get the same thing.” 

The report also lists increased wages, free childcare, pay for family caregivers, and a pathway to citizenship as other needs Black immigrant domestic workers have in order to make their jobs good careers. Furthermore, the report recommends Congressional action, including increased investment in childcare and Medicaid’s home and community based-services, as well as the passage of the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to increase protections, raise standards, and provide benefits industry-wide. 

For more information and to read the full report, visit the National Domestic Workers Alliance website.

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by over 70 affiliate organizations and local chapters and by a growing membership base of nannies, house cleaners and care workers in over 20 states. NDWA has created Alia, an online platform to help domestic workers access benefits, not otherwise granted to them, in addition to introducing a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights with now-Vice President Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal in 2019. Learn more at