Navigating a Complex Relationship

The past few weeks with Pinkcollar have been about the complex relationship between employers and domestic workers and how it differs from traditional employer-employee relationships. This week, I started writing materials to educate employers about how their workers’ unique backgrounds might affect communication with them and how these issues can be preempted. This issue, in particular, interests me because I volunteered as a victim advocate with my local sexual assault resource center, and I often faced a similar communication barrier since I was in a largely Hispanic community. That volunteer experience, along with my experience as a first-generation American, gives me the background to understand the unique challenges that migrant workers face when talking with their employers. For instance, many workers have limited English proficiency, making it difficult for them to talk with nuance. The employers understanding that their workers might inadvertently offend due to this issue can help resolve grievances earlier on in the process. Ultimately, resolving the concern early and without intervention from Pinkcollar fosters more trust between the employer and the worker and decreases the chances of termination in the long-run.  

Additionally, I learned more about the nature of the employer-worker relationship by reviewing the Pinkcollar worker page where workers discuss challenges that they are facing. One aspect of their dynamic that has stood out to me is how the gaps in Malaysian labor law and the visa system creates a situation where workers are often stuck in exploitative circumstances. For example, if a worker terminates, the employer must pay for their journey back home. The result of this is an inherently unequal power dynamic where employers can feel entitled in disputes, while workers feel disempowered. 

Even further, it is fascinating how, like the United States, Malaysia has racist, xenophobic, and classist elements embedded within its laws and legal institutions. An example of this is how the government categorizes “foreign workers” and “expats” differently based, in part, on which country the individual comes from. For instance, temporary employment passes are only for people from countries such as India, Pakistan, Laos, etc. I am excited to continue learning about how the government and international bodies can improve protections for domestic workers. 

Lastly, Pinkcollar’s former intern, Lilly, made a different Malaysian recipe each week to compensate for the cultural immersion that she lost to the pandemic. Her internship tradition she had inspired me to do my own form of cultural immersion. However, given that my cooking skills would likely burn down my apartment, I’ve decided to try a different Malaysian movie or TV show each week. My mom said that watching lots of American movies taught her English and the nuances of American culture when she first immigrated to America. So I figured that as a movie buff, this would be a great way to feel more connected to the culture even though I cannot be in-country. This week I’ll be watching the political drama, Rise: Ini Kalilah, so check back for my thoughts in my next blog post!