Volume 5

Valuing Domestic Work

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Domestic work—the daily maintenance of households and the labor of caring for children and other dependents—is crucial work. It enables workers to go out into the world, reproduces a new generation of workers and citizens, and sustains relationships among parents, children and families. And yet, it is devalued, degraded and made invisible. Its degradation and invisibility are produced through processes of gendering that naturalize domestic and caring labors as women’s work, and racialization that naturalize low-wage, “dirty” jobs as the work of people of color and immigrants. As laborers doing devalued work, domestic workers receive neither adequate wages nor any of the other legal protections many US workers have—sick leave, time off, and collective bargaining. In New York and nationally, workers have organized for better wages, humane treatment and the right to legal protections that cover other US workers. On August 31, 2010, New York Governor David Paterson signed into law the nation’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, paving the way towards increased recognition and protection of domestic workers. BCRW celebrates this victory for domestic workers and seeks to document the feminist values and organizing for justice that made this victory possible. Over the past three years, BCRW collaborated with Domestic Workers United and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, hosting the first National Domestic Workers Alliance congress at Barnard College in 2008 and the first East Coast Regional Congress in 2009. Together we have also produced the fifth report in our New Feminist Solutions series, along with a video of feminist support for domestic workers and an issue of Scholar and Feminist Online. Movements to ensure that domestic work is visible, safe, protected and valued are part of new and exciting efforts to ensure justice for all, including workers excluded from even the most basic protections.