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:
- New York
Resources for Education
Films and Videos
- Two Generations of $2.13/hour: Victoria & Chloe Bruton
- Can Caring Across Generations change the world?
- Nancy’s Story
- Chain of Love
- Maid in America
- Saru Jayaraman of ROC United on Raising the Tipped Minimum Wage
- Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State
- Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Making it in America
- Saru Jayaraman, Behind the Kitchen Door (UUA Common Read 2013-2014)
- Mary Romero, Maid in the U.S.A
- David K. Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America
- Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena Gutierrez, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice
- Susan Tucker, Telling Memories Among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and their Employers in the Segregated South
Factsheets and Research
- Five Policy Pillars, Values and Principles to Care for America
- Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection
- Laura Reyes, 'Thinking of Home Care Workers on Mother’s Day' (May 10, 2013, Huffington Post)
- Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work
- National Domestic Workers Alliance Campaigns
- Tipped Over the Edge: Gender Inequity in the Restaurant Industry and The Third Shift: Child Care Needs and Access for Working Mothers in Restaurants
- UUA Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice
- UUSC Campaign on Restaurant Worker Justice
Resources/Opportunities for Advocacy
- Caring Across Generations
- Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association
- ROC United
- Strong Families Partners
- National Domestic Workers Alliance Campaigns
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 email@example.com.
Check out these tips for submitting Letters to the Editor (LTE).
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.
Behind the Kitchen Door
By Saru Jayaraman, Eric Schlosser