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Partnering with Domestic and Restaurant Workers

Millions of women in the United States make their living working in the restaurant and domestic work sectors, the latter including jobs like home health care aids, nannies, and housekeepers. Women in these fields must often hold two or three jobs to support their family. They benefit from no labor laws, sick days, health insurance, or often, government recognition of their work. Their experience is one that is affected by overlapping oppressions of gender, race, income, and immigration status. They, like all of us, share in a vision of reproductive justice.

The restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy, and employs mostly women. In recent years, a large majority of the lowest paying jobs were in the restaurant industry, and these jobs also lack access to benefits and promotions. Fifty-five percent of employees in the restaurant industry are women, though women constitute more than two-thirds of the employees that receive $2.13 an hour—a federal substandard “tipped minimum wage.”

Domestic workers play a central role in many social and economic systems in the United States, yet they are often employed in exploitative or abusive jobs. Written out of the major labor legislation originally by people unwilling to pay their African American female housekeepers fairly, domestic workers have very few rights and very little power to assert those rights. With over 90 percent of the domestic workforce marginalized by gender, race, or immigration status, domestic work is plagued by long hours, low pay, no employment benefits, and exposure to hazardous conditions.

Priority Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) states for advocacy with domestic and restaurant workers:

  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts

Resources for Education

Films and Videos

Books

Factsheets and Research

Resources/Opportunities for Advocacy

Organizations

Sample Letter to the Editor or to State Lawmakers

Given the diversity of issues included in this priority area, congregations and advocates are encouraged to be involved in local coalitions to develop letters to the editor and letters to lawmakers. For help in reaching out to local campaigns and projects, contact socialjustice@uua.org.

Check out these tips for submitting Letters to the Editor (LTE).

Find out who your elected officials are. Get tips for your lobby visit or letter to elected officials.

Organizing within Unitarian Universalism
Request that your UUA district/region or Unitarian Universalist state advocacy network work on improving domestic or restaurant work in your state.

Join the Unitarian Universalists (UUs) for Reproductive Justice Yahoo Group and Facebook Group.

In Your Own Home
If you employ a domestic worker or know someone who does, use these resources to help improve your employment practices. Consider hosting an event in your community for other employers or writing a blog post or letter to the editor about your experience.

Acts of Service/Charitable Giving
There may be a local reproductive justice organization(s) in your area. Search the internet or contact local clinics, women’s studies departments at local universities, or advocacy organizations to find them.

Resources for Reflection

Small Group Ministry Session: Intersections of Economic and Reproductive Justice
This 45-minute reflection time was designed according to the standards of the UU Small Group Ministry Network but can be used by any group between 8-15 people for spiritual reflection.

UU Sermons on Reproductive Rights and Justice
Find an index of sermons in the “For Clergy” section of the Congregational Resource Packet.

Suggestions for Contemplative Practices

Behind the Kitchen Door

By Saru Jayaraman, Eric Schlosser

The 2013-14 UUA Common Read, Jayaraman sets out a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the nation's second-largest private sector workforce-and ensure that dining out is a positive experience on both sides of the kitchen door.

Behind the Kitchen Door