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Domestic Workers in Texas are Fighting for Their Rights

IMAGE: A campaign to educate employers and domestic workers in Texas about labor laws kicks off today (Thursday) at a gathering in Brownsville. Organizers say domestic workers are due, but don't always receive, the same job protections as others. CREDIT: Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center
IMAGE: A campaign to educate employers and domestic workers in Texas about labor laws kicks off today (Thursday) at a gathering in Brownsville. Organizers say domestic workers are due, but don't always receive, the same job protections as others. CREDIT: Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center
July 11, 2013

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A campaign in support of the region's domestic workers is being launched today by backers who saying they are central to the ongoing prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley.

These job-seekers often don't understand their rights, said Hector Guzman Lopez, coordinator of the Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center, and some employers take advantage.

"People have this hacienda mentality, plantation mentality, that, 'Well, it's an immigrant worker and they stay with me, so I can pay them whatever I want. I'm feeding them.' But that's not the case," he said. "Labor law clarifies that you need to pay domestic workers at least $7.25 an hour, as well as any other employee."

In one recent case, Lopez said, a domestic worker reported that she was paid what worked out to just $1.67 an hour. In addition to the right to the minimum wage, he added, domestic employees also have the right to respect and dignity in the workplace - regardless of their immigration status.

Citing misconceptions about the rights of domestic workers among both employers and employees, Lopez said a key to their campaign is education.

"We will be doing lots and lots of presentations at different community centers and with different community organizations, just letting people know first of all that there are certain rights," Lopez said. "And second, if people want to take action or they need help or they need support, there are organizations that support them."

The Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center is a project of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network. Domestic workers with questions can call 956-283-5650 or email fuerzadelvalle@gmail.com. More information is online at facebook.com/pages/Fuerza-del-Valle.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX