My Home Is Someone's Workplace: The Challenges and Possibilities of Careworkers' Employers Organizing for Change

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Jussara BARBOSA DOS SANTOS RAXLEN, The New School for Social Research, USA
In the fall of 2010, the state of New York ratified a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which extended basic labor protections to child and elder homecare workers. This legal victory was the result of more than a decade of activism by workers themselves through their own organizations and through the alliances they built with other civil society activist organizations, which, important to note, included employer-based organizations. Thus, contrary to traditional notions of an inevitable struggle between workers and employers, employers have been key allies in workers’ organizing efforts. In fact, since domestic care work takes place inside employers’ private homes, employers are now of strategic importance in order to make the law a reality. Acknowledging this challenge, in April of 2014, two employer organizations launched a campaign called “My Home is Someone’s Workplace.” As part of the campaign, both organizations have developed training programs to teach actual and prospective employers about their new legal responsibilities and fair employment practices, and also, to convey to employers values about mutual caring and interdependence. Reflecting on these goals, an employer organizer summarizes: “Our challenge is to pass on the information about the bill, but also to build the values and ideas that will bring about a political paradigm shift.”

Based on participant observation research, this paper examines the contents of these programs and asks: Can this training be an effective strategy to bring about change or does it simply reinforce the status quo?  Understanding these programs’ challenges and possibilities, the paper focuses on the contradictions that emerge for employer organizers as they struggle to pass on instrumental information and, at the same time, encourage political discussion about care, careworkers, and about the complex relationships between employers and careworkers.