The stereotype of the domestic “help” has become somewhat of an ongoing theme in American media. From popular television series to the recent hit film “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” these workers (usually immigrant women) are portrayed in humorous and sometimes awkward scenes, yet rarely given any serious clout as characters. Given the old saying that media holds a mirror up to society, what does that say about our view of domestic workers?
Ai-jen Poo, the daughter of Taiwanese parents, picked up on the condescending attitude many Americans have towards domestic workers very early on in her life. Ever since her college years, Ai-jen has been committed to giving a voice to this population – a group she aptly calls “the most visible invisible workforce” in the United States. Despite the fact that they take part in some of the most important processes of life such as child-rearing and taking care of the elderly, domestic workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation by their employers, whether it comes in the form of verbal abuse, low pay, an extremely arduous schedule or all of the above.
Being a incredibly talented organizer, Ai-jen Poo has flourished in her role as the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Her recent accomplishments include encouraging Obama to expand labor laws, lobbying for the first-ever Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (passed recently in N.Y.) and creating worker-led groups all over the country.
Ai-jen Poo has also translated her leadership skills into her work with Caring Across Generations, an organization that encourages good relationships between caregivers and their patients and promotes the creation of quality jobs in the field of home care.
There is much to be done before the image created by the media of the typical immigrant caregiver is replaced with a more realistic, empowered representation of domestic workers, and until that time we have women like Ai-jen Poo to thank for giving a voice to this group!
To learn more about Ai-jen Poo and you can get involved in her campaign, visit the National Domestic Workers Alliance website at www.domesticworkers.org!