First-Ever Domestic Workers Union Launched in Mexico

Dozens of union members and their allies from across Mexico gathered today to celebrate the official launch of the country’s first domestic workers’ union, SINACTTRAHO. The union’s formation culminated a 15-year struggle for rights on the job by those whose work often goes unrecognized, and today’s events marked the union filing for official government recognition.

Earlier this week, the National Union of Workers (UNT) approved SINACTTRAHO’s affiliation. Domestic workers from states like Colima, Chiapas, Puebla, Guerrero, Mexico City and elsewhere around the country voted to form the union and elected an executive committee earlier in August.

“I am very excited for today because it is a historical victory for the domestic workers in Mexico,” says Isidra, a domestic worker who took part in today’s events. “From now on, we will have rights and no one will be able to take them away from us. Our rights will be respected, no more low salaries and disrespectful treatment. Our work is valuable.”

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Domestic workers cast their vote on whether to form a union. Credit: CACEH

“This union was created to make the difference for domestic workers in this country. It is an historic moment for the more than 2 million domestic workers in Mexico,” says Marcelina Bautista, a former domestic worker who founded the Center for Support and Training of Domestic Workers (CACEH). CACEH’s outreach efforts among domestic workers led to the formation of SINACTTRAHO, which launches with 60 members and plans to continue reaching out to domestic workers across the country.

Domestic Workers’ Union: A Dream Come True
The struggle by Mexico’s domestic workers for rights on the job is documented in the film, “Day Off” (a de Descanso), which premiered yesterday, with SINACTTRAHO executive board members taking part. Elizabeth Tang, general secretary of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), traveled from Hong Kong to join the events this week. Also taking part is Jill Shenker, IDWF North America Regional Coordinator and international organizing director for the U.S.-based National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA).

Bautista says when CACEH was formed 15 years ago, she dreamed of creating a trade union, but the conditions were not favorable. “Today that dream will come true,” she says. Bautista is the IDWF regional coordinator for Latin America and from 2006 to 2012, served as general secretary of CONLACTRAHO, the confederation of Latin American and Caribbean domestic workers.

“Through this struggle, we’ve come to realize that we’re wise.”

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Domestic workers celebrate with a green glove, the campaign’s symbol of rights and respect on the job. Credit: Adriana Paz

Domestic Workers Raising Awareness among Public, Lawmakers
In addition to organizing domestic workers, CACEH conducts training and education programs, with train-the-trainer workshops expanding CACEH’s network of domestic workers. CACEH has taken part in labor legislation advocacy at multiple levels of government and has spearheaded campaigns to raise public awareness about the value of domestic work and the rights of domestic workers.

“All the positioning work has been very successful, and today the Senate and Congress are aware of the issue,” Bautista says.

Going forward, domestic workers will ramp up efforts to push Mexico to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention (ILO) Convention 189 covering domestic workers.

“We didn’t know how to shout the first time we went on a march,” Bautista says. “Now they listen to us!”