Deloris Wright (Domestic Workers United)
My name is Deloris Wright and I was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in the parish of Manchester. I was raised there with my grandma, while my mom was working in Kingston to support the family. I stayed there with my grandma until I was fifteen years old, then I moved to Kingston with my mom, where I started school. At sixteen I got a job at the store where my step-mom used to work as a seamstress. I went there on the holiday, just for holiday work as a clerk, and they kept me and I worked there for sixteen years, until I came to the United States.
By that time I had a daughter and needed to support her. She was doing well in school and her teacher said she had great potential. Between the school fee and the cost of living and being a single mom, I said, “How am I going to do this?” Then the opportunity came to go to the States and I said, “You know what? I’m going to give it a shot.” I remember the same morning I was coming here was the same day she sat for her common entrance exam. I remember waking up that morning, making breakfast, combing her hair and watching her go down the street while I stood at the door and watched her until I couldn’t see here anymore; knowing that when she came home, she wasn’t going to see me because I was flying out that same day.
I came here in 1987 and it was ten years before I saw my family again. So it was really hard, but I thank God that while I was here struggling, she was there excelling. She did very well in school. In high school she passed a couple of A levels, and then she got a job working with the Ministry of Finance. I filed for her and she came in 2000, right after 9/11. I call her the bookworm. She went to DeVry, she did her Bachelors, she went on to CUNY, and she did her Masters. So I’m grateful and when I look back, I say thank God I made a sacrifice, because if I was in Jamaica I don’t know how I would’ve done it, because the job that I had couldn’t support me plus send her to school.
I’ve been a nanny since I came here in 1987. I’ve been here for twenty-six years now and I’ve been working as a nanny for twenty-four years. Being a domestic worker is a very tough job. The nature of it is continual. I remember on one of my jobs I did everything that needed to be done, and I sat down to have some water, and as soon as I did the woman asked me if there was anything else for me to do. She couldn’t bear to know that I was sitting down, although I didn’t sit down until I was finished doing all that I’d had to do. So it’s tough sometimes. But I love my job because I love the kids. Although sometimes certain aspects of the job can stress you out, the kids are amazing.
I was standing there watching everyone during one of the Tempest rehearsals. And when I stood there and thought about it, I had to hold back the tears because I realized: I’m in this because of Domestic Workers United. I’m here because of an organization that fought really hard for six years for a bill of rights for domestic workers. This is an organization that a lot of people out there look up to because we did something big in the United States of America by changing labor laws. We helped pass the first bill in the United States that includes domestic workers. Domestic workers and farm workers were the only two groups that were deliberately excluded from labor laws, since the Jim Crow Act. For so long we’ve had no rights whatsoever. So for me, just thinking about that and thinking about the organization, tears came to my eyes and I’m very honored. I’m honored that Lear, Lisa Ramirez, Sarah, Tiffany, and all those folks from the Public are working with us to really highlight our work and to bring us into focus again.
Domestic Workers United is an organization that is really fighting for dignity and respect for the jobs that we do. We take care of people’s kids, we take care of their houses, their dogs, their parents, their grandparents—Domestic workers do all this. While doing so, we still have our own family to care for, so we are really standing in the gap and doing a lot, not only for ourselves but for everybody’s benefit. All we ask for is just a little respect. Nothing extra.