DE Group C

| 3 Comments

Before watching Maid in America, I was extremely skeptical. I didn't really have an opinion on the whole issue of domestic houseworkers, especially those that are undocumented workers. I thought that if you were an undocumented worker you were somehow here illegally, taking jobs from Americans. I'm so glad this film changed my initial perceptions.

Although it was extremely brief and just scratched the surface of these women's lives, it definitely opened up the audience to their world. It was amazing to me these houseworkers were thankful to make on average, about $5 an hour! I couldn't believe they were living in conditions in other countries where $5 was considered a lot of money!

It deeply saddened me to know that these women were working in U.S. homes to send money back to their homes, and at the same time they were missing extremely significant events! For example, Judith missed her daughters growing up and Eva missed her grandmothers funeral. All of this for the sake of money? It seems so backwards that money is literally what these women's lives revolve around. Yes, they were treated politely (in this film) and paid "so much money," but they didn't legally have any actual rights or benefits. Granted, they aren't U.S. citizens, one was in a co-op of women who paid taxes to our government! The system seems a little messed up to me if these workers are here legally, and even paying taxes they aren't required, and they have no legal rights, no actual insurance coverage, etc. It was disturbing when Judith said to come back into the United States again would be risking her life! What kind of place is this? These women may not be United States citizens, but they are performing a service to us. We aren't doing them any favors by employing them at $5 an hour, which is below our legal minimum wage. Basically, we're ripping desperate families off, and then acting martyrs for "letting" them work here.

Basically, by the end of this film, I was outraged at the way in which our government conducts its policies against undocumented workers. It all seems so selfish. These people are only trying to better their lives, and we're doing nothing to help them, with all of our riches. Isn't it a feminist issue to help assist these women in equal rights while they're in the U.S? Aren't we responsible for protecting them from living in constant abuse, fear, or danger? I believe it is also a feminist issue to work with these poor, third world countries to help these women make it on their own, without the backbreaking, underpaid labor they're performing in the U.S.

3 Comments

I really appreciate your sincerity on the issue of undocumented workers in relation to tax. I also think you made a very good point by saying that “These women may not be United States citizens, but they are performing a service to us”. Sometimes I wonder why make them pay taxes but still allow them to suffer. I also wonder why we hire them knowing they are undocumented workers. This statement might seem contradicting but what am just trying to say is that the fact that we know they are undocumented workers should not give us the right to explore them and pay them low. That is knowing that they are undocumented workers should not change the fact that they are still workers of this country as far they are been taxed. This has been my concerns ever since have heard of the labor of the undocumented workers despite the fact they contribute significantly to the country’s economy. You can check out the links below for more information.
http://bit.ly/byy4Gu; http://bit.ly/f9l6sb.

What's funny about this issue of undocumented workers and our relationship with Mexico is that our government has set a precedent from early on to encourage Mexican/Latino immigrants to come to the country. Even when we had our strictest immigration laws in place that excluded most persons not from Northern Europe the boarders have been open to Mexico for the purpose of cheap labor and the desirability to have workers willing to do the jobs that most Americans were un-willing to do. Fast forward to now where we have an economic recession there's a distinct tension in the idea that non U.S. citizens are "stealing" jobs. What American is searching for a job that will pay them only $5/an hour? Some sort of amnesty is an ideal situation but this hasn't come to fruition yet and instead even stricter immigration laws have come to pass like in Arizona that are essentially based on racial profiling.

Domestic work is a reality that won't go away but wouldn't it be better particularly with the nanny issue if households could afford other child care services? The one couple that employed Telma talked about how if a person really cared about their kids they'd pay the person working for them as much as possible; isn't part of the problem then that domestics/nannies are seen as a cheap alternative to child care services that can be exceptionally expensive. It was obvious from the film that domestic jobs weren't jobs that opened any significant doors and offered little reward for hard work. It's a shame that we don't have more programs in place to help these immigrants learn English and help place them in jobs that could offer steady employment with benefits and a living wage that need to be filled in these job sectors. Being bi-lingual would certainly be an advantage but ultimately this situation can't and wont change until government leadership can finally come together and offer a reasonable solution to gaining citizenship for these undocumented workers.

I do think it is essential, that we look at when this movie was made, 2005 and the context of what the minimum wage was back then, $5.15. This really puts their wage in perspective, and it's the bare minimum that the Federal government required that employers pay (some states required a higher rate). This isn't to say that 5.15 was livable, nor is it to be so naive to think that no domestic worker was making less than that $5.15, for it is only an average, and the worker that took care of Micky was making $8 an hour, and there must be people making lower than the minimum wage, because THE MINIMUM WAGE IS UNENFORCEABLE if an individual happens to be undocumented, despite them owning their own business.

There's really not a 'grey area' as much as there is a BLACK HOLE in the gap between labor standards and regulations for citizens and other visa-holding immigrants and non-documented ones. There really are no laws to regulate work conditions and wages because the victims of the abuses would just be turned over to the ICE, so no worker is going to complain, because risking deportation is not worth a better work environment.

They're not only the direct victims, as the system of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy exists to victimize nearly all. Because employers are likely to take advantage of the lack of regulation of wages, they pay lower, which creates an artificial wage floor, lower than actual wages in the free market (regulated by the federal government in the means of the minimum wage) which makes it uncompetitive for working class citizens to find work because why would you pay someone $7 with the liability of good work conditions when you could get the same thing done for 3 or 4 with nearly no expectation of working conditions?

Leave a comment

Recent Entries

DE April 27: Group B
While this course has been my first official foray into the GWSS department, feminism and gender politics have always been…
DE March 30: Group B
La Colectiva has a few conflicting messages. While their Bill of Rights demands improved conditions to empower workers and "level…
"Vulva"...A Feminist Issue?
Since our classmates' informative and compelling blog about the perfume industry has made fragrances something of a hot-ticket item,…