There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.
Juana first travelled from the Philippines to Kuwait in 1985 where she was subjected to domestic slavery. Locked in her employer’s house and unable to communicate with her family. From here, Juana’s ex-husband’s sister helped her leave Kuwait and travel to the United States. Here she became a domestic worker where she suffered withholding of pay and unfair dismissal. With the help of a local grassroots organisations, Juana was able to win back her unpaid wages and now works with the organisation to help other domestic workers in the US.
I was born on May 16, 1958. I have five sisters and two brothers. I’m number five. My parents are farmers.
I migrated to the US because of too much poverty in the Philippines and no employment. Also, I wanted to come here because I’m a survivor of domestic violence with my ex-husband. There were lots of times he hit me, punched me, slapped me, kicked me… he choked me.
My name is Jauna Dwyer, I’m a domestic worker.
In 1985 before the gulf war, I went to Kuwait. I worked as what is called a DH (domestic help) which is a kind of domestic work. No day off. Seven days a week. You just say you’re working 16 hours a day.
Every time... when my employer would go out of the house, she would lock me inside the house. She would also lock up the telephone so I could not communicate with anyone. Her sister would slap me hard.
The sister of my ex-husband helped bring me over to the United States. The separation from my family and my kids was hard.
I want to be punctual. For me, domestic work is hard. I have already scoliosis and I’ve had knee surgery.
I like it and I am earning money so I can send to college my kids back in the Philippines and I can support them.
In 2009 I worked in Manhattan as a baby sitter. I worked with them for 18 months. We had an agreement that I’m entitled to get two weeks vacation, paid vacation in one year pf my work. I give them notice three month before I took the vacation and then with the time I went to vacation they did not give me my vacation pay.
And er I felt embarrassed asking in person so I we asked when I get the vacation pay, they said ‘you’re the one who wants vacation’ and you’re not entitled to get vacation pay. I just received a text message that I was fired. And I asked them if they can give me like a separation pay or you know or erm reference but they said because of the circumstances you are not entitled to get severance pay.
At the time I was already a member of the Damayan Migrant Workers. Damayan called me and they told me that I’m entitled to get my overtime and severance. So at the same time we claimed unemployment but my employer contest. I won my unpaid wages or ‘theft wages’.
Damayan is a grassroots organisation they help abused Filipino workers, especially labor trafficked workers.
My hope for the community for the future is that we will get justice for all workers, domestic workers. They will get justice!
In Damayan I work as Deputy Chair. It’s exciting if you have a lot of winning cases.
I feel like I have a family in the United States.
Original Narrative can be found here