To commemorate Latina Equal Pay Day, Barbara Reyna, a migrant worker and advocate for transparency in the J-1 program for au pairs, shared her experience and opinion about the need for equality among all the workers.
Why is it important that caregivers be compensated equally?
Caregiving should not be belittled. Caring for children is work, and it implies great effort. We are talking about looking after a person’s well being. We deserve to be compensated equally.
It should not be thought of as a “job for women” and that it does not have value. Women and men are capable of performing the same jobs. The idea that working as an au pair is similar to a long vacation is simply mistaken -- it’s a serious job.
What do you think is the greatest issue that J-1/Au Pair workers face?
Sponsor agencies do not really give an explanation about what the contract entails or the rights we have as workers. The program is sold as an exchange program, disregarding issues related to security and labor rights. The other big problem is that the pay is very low.
What changes would you like to see for the future of the J-1/Au pair program?
I would like to see better contracts, more regulation of sponsor agencies and stronger worker protections. As human beings we all deserve to have a good experience and not be disregarded. Agencies charge such a large fee for workers to be part of the program, and it would only be fair to hold sponsor agencies accountable and for workers to have support from lawyers and doctors.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
My experience was not good. I didn’t have the necessary support from the company that hired me but thanks to my effort I was able to stand up for my rights. I believe that if we unite as workers, we can achieve change.