My Mother's Day Wish

Waking up every morning, I envisioned the long road ahead of me -- both metaphorically and literally. Growing up on the other side of the border, my mother and I would make the trek into San Diego.

Riding with the rising sun through the changing communities of San Ysidro, Chula Vista, National City, Barrio Logan, downtown and all the way up to the wealthy homes of La Jolla, it granted me the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices my mother made in search of a better future.

My mother, Carmen, cleaned houses and took care of elderly people.

My responsibilities often included simply accompanying her to La Jolla, but she, on the other hand, worked her fingers to the bone cleaning other people's homes. As a single mother, she had three children to provide for -- my two sisters and me.

She worked all day and then we would ride back home. That two-hour long ride each way on the No. 34 bus served as a means to achieve a stable end, a daily reminder of places attainable in my grasp.

My mother passed away young -- she died from ovarian cancer at just 54 years old. Her sacrifices for my sisters and I evoke a tribute in her honor each and every Mother's Day.

This year, I celebrate her by honoring the work she did. Since she was a domestic worker, I am a co-author of AB 241, the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights.

I've been surrounded by strong, hardworking women like my mother all my life. My aunt, who helped raise me, also cleaned hotel rooms and houses. She still cleans a few days a week in order to make ends meet. As a 70-plus-year-old woman (she won't give me her real age), she deserves a break.

In fact, all domestic workers deserve a real break in their work day. They deserve overtime pay when they work overtime hours. They deserve the basic worker protections that most of us -- from legislators to store clerks -- take for granted.

Some people think we can exclude domestic work because it's most commonly performed by women or seen as casual. It is real work. It's important work, though it's largely invisible. Their labor often allows other families with two full-time wage earners to go to work in the morning, knowing their home and children are cared for and safe.

Domestic workers allow many people with disabilities to maintain independent, productive lives and live in their own homes -- not in institutions.

Most of these workers are women. Many of them share the same story as my mother -- being an immigrant and single parent. They help keep California's economy in motion.

However, despite their economic importance, many of these women have long been denied simple employment rights -- overtime, meal and rest breaks, worker's compensation. It's time to bring a change to that. That's why Assemblymember Tom Ammiano introduced the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights last year, and why we passed it last year. This year, as a co-author, I aim to secure the governor's signature.

To me, that would be the most fitting way to honor my mother's life and respect the work of the 200,000 domestic workers of California. My mom lived every day full of hope for her children, wishing for them a better life.

I live every day with the hope that she would be as proud of my work as I am of hers. She never lived to see me become a senator.

Looking back on the memories I shared with my mother, I now appreciate the long bus rides. She was a hard worker and was determined to show me a future that I thought out of my grasp.