Domestic Workers Organize!

In: WorkingUSA
Eileen Boris
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Premilla Nadasen
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This article traces the history of domestic worker organizing in the U.S. It challenges the long-standing assumption that these—primarily women of color—cleaners, nannies, and elder care providers are unorganizable and assesses the possibilities and limitations of recent organizing efforts. The nature of the occupation—its location in the home, the isolated character of the work, informal arrangements with employers, and exclusions from labor law protection—has fostered community-based, social movement organizing to build coalitions, reform legislation and draw public attention to the plight of domestic workers. Their successes, as well as the obstacles they encounter, hold lessons for other low-wage service sector workers in a new global economy. Domestic workers have integrated an analysis of race, class, culture, and gender—a form of social justice feminism—into their praxis, thus formulating innovative class-based strategies. Yet long-term reform has remained elusive because of their limited power to shape state policy.

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