Domestic Workers, the Politics of Care, and Workers’ Rights

Authors: Kim England*, University of Washington
Topics: Political Geography, Gender, Economic Geography
Keywords: Domestic Work, Care, Labor, Activism, Feminist Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recently domestic workers have gained important legal rights and remarkable visibility – significant for an occupation with a history of being devalued and hidden behind the doors of private homes. Domestic workers experience exploitative wages and poor working conditions, and are more vulnerable than employees in conventional workplaces. They have long been represented as unorganizable. However, domestic workers have come together to create a new round of worker movements and sustained organizing within the United States and elsewhere. I explore the recent emergence of campaigns associated with domestic workers in the US, notably the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, now enacted in a several states; and changes to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In an era of austerity, such activism problematizes the invisibility and continued devaluation of domestic work by explicitly calling for respect and recognition for domestic workers. They have become active and visible in the various efforts to gain coverage under labor legislation at the state and federal government levels, and their activism is distinctly spatial. Their strategies draw on a range of geographically embedded cultural, legal and political resources at the local, state and national levels, enabling opportunities to channel their energy into locations where success is most likely or where support is most needed with the goal of discursively and materially re-valuing paid domestic work.

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