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Caring for AmericaHome Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State$
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Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329117

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329117.001.0001

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“Take Us Out of Slavery”

“Take Us Out of Slavery”

(p.123) 5 “Take Us Out of Slavery”
Caring for America

Eileen Boris

Jennifer Klein

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the first successful unionization of home care as part of the civil rights surge among black women domestics. Central to this process were the reorganization of domestic work and feminist efforts to improve the job through the National Committee on Household Employment and the Household Technicians of America. The legal status of home care and domestic service diverged in 1975 when the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classified home care workers as elder companions outside the law. But, as invisible as home care workers appeared, they proved more traceable than domestics laboring for individual families. So when service sector unions sought to organize domestics, they found home attendants instead by untangling the administrative maze and money trail of federal and local programs. Their strategies reflected the prior contracting of home care by the state, with community organizers in California, notably the United Domestic Workers of America in San Diego, pressuring county supervisors and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in New York City bargaining with individual agencies. By the early 1980s, SEIU formally acknowledged that these workers were caregivers more than cleaners, part of health care unionism.

Keywords:   domestic service, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Committee on Household Employment, Household Technicians of America, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), elder companion, California Homemakers Association, United Domestic Workers of America, SEIU 32 B-32 J (SEIU 32 B-J)

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