Care Work, Labor Rights, and Domestic Worker Organizing

Friday, January 5, 2018: 9:10 AM
Columbia 5 (Washington Hilton)
Premilla Nadasen, Barnard College, Columbia University
This paper examines the ways in which the movement for domestic workers’ rights in the 1960s and 1970s engaged with the politics of care and demands for rights. Emerging in a context of civil rights, black power and feminist organizing, African American household workers sought to transform an occupation that they saw rooted in the history of slavery and racism. They spoke about the way they were dehumanized and the emotional labor demanded of them. They advocated professionalization, higher wages, a contractual relationship, and federal labor protections. Although they loved their work, sought to revalue the work of social reproduction and formed alliances with some feminist employers, they rejected both the trope “one of the family” and the language of care to describe their labor. This paper will analyze the complicated ways these activists saw care in relationship to rights.