Making the Private Public
As personal attendant and home health aides, poor African American and immigrant women have enabled elderly and disabled people to live decent lives at home. Their workplaces might be private and isolated, their work excluded from the nation’s labor laws, but how they do their jobs is a story of political economy, one that reflects the major shifts in work and welfare that define contemporary America. This introduction lays out the economic, political, and social changes that have made home care one of the fastest growing occupations of the 21st century and placed women of color at the center of the labor movement. The emerging carework economy, in turn, has called for new organizing strategies to meet the state structuring of the labor and the relational character of the work. To understand the struggles of home care workers, then, we must reflect on meanings attached to care, its association with women’s unpaid and women of color’s underpaid labor, and its place within the welfare state.
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