They came from as far as Providence, Rhode Island and Phoenix, Arizona to lend a voice – and some cultural gravitas – to the fight for a domestic workers bill of rights in Santa Monica.
On Tuesday, the Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to vote on legislation that would give hotel workers panic buttons as well as fair compensation for heavy workloads, job security and training. In the ramp-up to the council vote, UNITE HERE Local 11 and a coalition partners held a screening of the documentary “Councilwoman” featuring a special pre-screening discussion with the star of the documentary, as well as a housekeeper who works at a Santa Monica hotel.
Two of the City Councilmembers attending the screening at Saint Monica’s Church were housekeepers before they became politicians. Now in her second term as a city councilmember in Providence, Carmen Castillo still cleans 15 rooms per day. Over the course of the seven years that filmmakers tracked her life, Castillo divided her time between hospitality work and City Hall while also raising three children.
“I believe in empowering community, and I decided to be a city councilperson because I want not only to help my co-workers, I want to help my community, too,” Castillo told the attendees of the screening which included several local domestic workers. “Go together to City Hall [on Tuesday] and let them know what you want and what you need. They have to support you.”
Los Angeles native Betty Guardado, who won a seat on the City Council of Phoenix, emphasized the need for more women to run for office.
“Someone like me that represents the majority of the people that live in Phoenix deserves to have a seat at the table,” said Guardado. “As a former housekeeper, I know what it’s like to clean the rooms and to be tired. I know what it’s like to want to get out of work and just jump into bed and not think about anything. If we’re going to change the laws in the state of Arizona and in California, we need to get rid of Trump and the only way we’re going to get rid of Trump is if we get more women to run for office.”
More than 2,000 workers housekeepers work at more than 40 hotels in motels within the city. With its proposed domestic worker legislation, Santa Monica is trying to follow the lead of cities such as Long Beach, Oakland, Emeryville and Seattle. In July, California Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris was one of the sponsors of a national Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
While the progress of the federal legislation is ongoing, Santa Monica city leaders in attendance at the screening said that their regulations are a high priority. Another 2020 Presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has expressed his support for the Santa Monica legislation.
Aurelia Gonzales, who works in Santa Monica and has been part of the campaign, expressed hope at the positive changes in working conditions that will come about if the Santa Monica legislation is approved.
“I will no longer have to work mandatory overtime without warning to be able to finish the work the company assigns to me,” said Gonzales. “I will no longer have to get home late after work and have no time to spend with my family. If this policy passes, it will help me and my co-workers have a job with more dignity.”
“We really believe that empowering women and people who are working in the hospitality industry is the key to creating a better society,” added Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis. “it’s important to us that the people who make Santa Monica such a great place to live, such a great place to work and such a great place to visit are paid fair wages, treated with respect and are empowered within their work.”
In addition to Local 11, the “Councilwoman” screening was co-hosted by CLUE, the Santa Monica Democratic Club, LAANE and Hollywood NOW.