Domestic Workers' Organizing Strategies and Models: An International Comparison
Using data collected through field work in 13 countries (Brazil, Dominican Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Namibia, The Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States), this paper compares domestic workers’ organizations’ strategies and structures, with the aim of identifying and explaining patterns and points of divergence. Comparisons were made across variables, including outreach strategies, organizational form, position of domestic workers in the organization, and relationship to trade union confederations. Cases were then placed on a spectrum of organizing models, ranging from the “union” to the “associational” model (Ally 2005). The study reveals that organizing strategies, while they differ, work to overcome the sector’s characteristics, namely its decentralization, informality, instability, low worker to employer ratios, and socially marginal status of the workers. The comparison also paves the way to theorize domestic worker power, applying concepts of advocacy versus social power (Jenkins 2002), associational versus structural power (Olin Wright 2000), and other social movement theories and labor studies’ scholarship.