Production, Reproduction, and the Problem of Home for Work


“Rural women are often the most for­got­ten par­tic­i­pants in the econ­omy,” responded econ­o­mist Lour­des Ben­ería to a 1977 inter­nal report on efforts by the Inter­na­tional Labor Orga­ni­za­tion (ILO) to imple­ment U.N. dec­la­ra­tions on women’s equal­ity.1 “Rather than being ‘mar­ginal’ par­tic­i­pants in the stream of eco­nomic activ­i­ties,” she asserted, “they are an ‘inte­gral’ part of it.” After all, “they work long hours in domes­tic and agri­cul­tural jobs, and… per­form essen­tial activ­i­ties to the eco­nomic sys­tem, namely those related to pro­duc­tion of foods and ser­vices, either in the fields or at home, and those related to the repro­duc­tion of the labour force.“2 In rec­og­niz­ing the role of women from the “Third World” in eco­nomic devel­op­ment as span­ning pro­duc­tion and repro­duc­tion, Ben­ería under­scored a cen­tral prob­lem­atic that is with us yet: the rela­tion of home to work, the mean­ing of such terms, and their impli­ca­tions for the prac­tice of care.

The ide­o­log­i­cal split between home and work in the indus­tri­al­ized West has obscured the ways that each realm shapes the other. It also shaped social pol­icy toward “women in devel­op­ing coun­tries.” Con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal debate main­tains an oppo­si­tion between “mother” and “worker” as well as “work” and “care.” This divi­sion reflects a per­va­sive intel­lec­tual and polit­i­cal impasse per­vad­ing the orga­ni­za­tion of knowl­edge – our schol­ar­ship – as well as legal rules, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions, and union orga­niz­ing. “Sep­a­rate spheres” or “the cult of domes­tic­ity” long dom­i­nated his­to­ries of U.S. and Euro­pean women, espe­cially for the 19th cen­tury, even though most women had to labor hard, some­times in the home, often out­side of it, to main­tain them­selves and their house­holds. They were sub­sis­tence farm­ers, wage earn­ers, and house­wives; some were domes­tic ser­vants and slaves. Even when buy­ing and trad­ing through mar­kets, they had to trans­form pur­chased mate­ri­als into con­sum­able goods. They aided in child­birth, nursed the ill, looked after chil­dren, soothed the afflicted, and watched over the dead. Care was inter­wo­ven into the fab­ric of daily life, whether or not they went out to work.3

But indus­trial cap­i­tal­ism and, in the case of the United States, its racial­iza­tion, obscured inter­de­pen­den­cies in cel­e­brat­ing indi­vid­u­al­ism, pro­mot­ing male bread­win­ners, and struc­tur­ing inequal­ity through gen­der, race/ethnicity, and class hier­ar­chies. How­ever, trans­for­ma­tions in the larger polit­i­cal econ­omy made the male bread­win­ner inad­e­quate even for those classes, which included fam­i­lies with union­ized men, that in the post-WWII years seemed to obtain this ideal. By the 1970s, the begin­nings of neolib­eral reorder­ing, the dual breadwinner/female care­giver model came to the fore, which left poor sin­gle moth­ers with hav­ing to make due on their own with increas­ingly mea­ger social assis­tance. Wage earn­ing women began to employ migrant moth­ers to take up their slack in a new inter­na­tional divi­sion of (re)productive labor.4

In this con­text, by the 1980s, the decon­struc­tion of women’s labors became cen­tral to a larger fem­i­nist project of dis­solv­ing these social con­struc­tions, espe­cially the dichotomy of pub­lic (work) and pri­vate (home). Fem­i­nist schol­ars, espe­cially those writ­ing out of a left tra­di­tion, simul­ta­ne­ously set about to revalue work that appeared to be done out of love or oblig­a­tion (and racial­ized when coerced out of slaves or eth­nic minori­ties), and thus became under­paid when per­formed for a wage and deval­ued in the mar­ket econ­omy.5 But whether care is really work con­tin­ues to con­found, shap­ing social pol­icy and dri­ving polit­i­cal move­ments.

Care cer­tainly is a nar­rower con­cept than repro­duc­tive labor. As we learned from the Marx­ist domes­tic labor debates of the 1970s and 1980s, repro­duc­tive labor con­sists of activ­i­ties that pro­duce labor power – activ­i­ties that trans­form raw mate­ri­als and com­modi­ties bought with a wage to main­tain the worker daily and gen­er­ate future work­forces through the feed­ing, cloth­ing, car­ing, edu­cat­ing, and social­iz­ing of chil­dren. It is per­formed usu­ally not for a wage and by a woman (as a house­wife, though she might also be a wage worker at the same time).6 Care, thus, is one com­po­nent of repro­duc­tive labor, not the same as house­work but often per­formed with other domes­tic activ­i­ties – and where the line is between care and house­work isn’t so clear. Care­work involves per­sonal ser­vices for other peo­ple: activ­i­ties that tend to the phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tual, affec­tive, and other emo­tional needs of part­ners, chil­dren, and elderly, ill, or dis­abled peo­ple. It includes tasks for daily life, includ­ing house­hold main­te­nance (cook­ing, clean­ing, wash­ing, even shop­ping) and per­sonal exis­tence (bathing, feed­ing, turn­ing over, ambu­la­tion). Sex-affec­tive pro­duc­tion can be part of care. It need not be het­ero­sex­ual or homo­nor­ma­tive. Such labor requires, fem­i­nist the­o­rists across dis­ci­plines argue, “‘car­ing for’ while ‘car­ing about.’” To tend the envi­ron­ment of the abode or the body is to care for but per­haps also to care about.7

Who cares varies, and we might even imag­ine care as dis­rup­tive to a hege­monic order rather than cen­tral to its func­tion­ing. After all, care sug­gests inter­de­pen­dency, inti­macy, and species worth. Nev­er­the­less, the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary lit­er­a­ture on care still reflects the equa­tion of domes­tic labor with oppres­sion. It explains women’s respon­si­bil­ity for unpaid fam­ily care in terms of labor mar­ket seg­men­ta­tion (sex­ual divi­sion of labor), psy­cho­dy­nam­ics (women moth­er­ing repro­duces women who give care), and social sta­tus (men don’t want to do it.). Some have addressed the move­ment of care from the home to other work­places (schools, hos­pi­tals, nurs­ing homes, and fac­to­ries), espe­cially in terms of the struc­ture of wel­fare states and racial divi­sion of labor, while oth­ers con­sider care in terms of the work and fam­ily dilemma asso­ci­ated with “the dou­ble day.” These schol­ars ask how we as a soci­ety should orga­nize care – who should care and who should pay for care, does care remain in the fam­ily or move out­side of fam­i­lies, is it an indi­vid­ual, fam­ily, com­mu­nity, state, or national oblig­a­tion? A few empha­size the rela­tion­ship between employ­ers of care and their employ­ees, dis­tin­guish­ing between spir­i­tual and menial house­work in terms of moth­ers, ser­vants, slaves, and low-paid labor­ers, high­light­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of immi­grant women clean­ing and car­ing for the afflu­ent.8

The skills nec­es­sary for clean­ing, cook­ing, laun­dry, child­care, nurs­ing, and other tasks appear to be nat­u­ral, their eco­nomic value obscured. Some would claim that such labor has use value, but not exchange value, and thus is val­ue­less in a Marx­ist mean­ing of value. Oth­ers, notably Leopold­ina For­tu­nati, would argue that care already is part of exchange, that the house­wife (and the pros­ti­tute) both work for cap­i­tal in repro­duc­ing the labor power of the male worker.9 But because of the way we in the West, notably the United States, gen­er­ally regard such labor, when it moves out of the home into the mar­ket­place, it loses sta­tus as a labor of love and becomes clas­si­fied as unskilled work that any­one can per­form, because women have under­taken such activ­i­ties with­out pay­ment. It becomes stig­ma­tized for two rea­sons: first, it involves dirt, bod­ies, and inti­macy; sec­ond, those who have per­formed such paid jobs are of lower sta­tus, often men and women of color and/or recent immi­grants. Though such jobs need not be women’s, or immi­grant women’s work, they have been his­tor­i­cally. Char­ac­ter­is­tics of the worker still define the skill and value of the work.

This essay will pro­ceed in three parts. First, I dis­cuss the dis­missal of domes­tic labor by lib­eral fem­i­nist Betty Friedan in her influ­en­tial 1963 The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique as an ironic con­tin­u­a­tion of a Marx­ist project that equated women’s eman­ci­pa­tion with leav­ing the home for employ­ment out­side of it. Sec­ond, I ana­lyze a fem­i­nist blog dis­cus­sion over the mean­ing of care in the United States as indica­tive of a con­tin­u­ing den­i­gra­tion of domes­tic labor. Third, I turn to strug­gles of home care and other domes­tic work­ers, whose invis­i­bil­ity hege­monic under­stand­ings of home and work have fed into. In their orga­niz­ing cam­paigns for recog­ni­tion as work­ers under the labor law, we find the equa­tion of repro­duc­tion with pro­duc­tion. Thus, finally, I end with thoughts on the pri­macy of pro­duc­tion as our par­a­digm for pro­gress, which leads me back to the pre­scrip­tions of Lour­des Ben­ería and the ILO through the lens of Kathi Weeks’ cri­tique of “the work ethic.”

“The Problem that Has No Name” Was a Problem

The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique rein­forced, even as it reflected, the deval­u­a­tion of repro­duc­tive labor. Its influ­ence had a per­ni­cious impact for those women who went out to work to per­form care and other domes­tic occu­pa­tions because it dis­missed the worth of the housewife’s labors at pre­cisely the moment when ser­vice indus­tries began their eco­nomic ascent and so fed into the under­valu­ing of the women who dared to call them­selves “House­hold Tech­ni­cians” rather than domes­tic ser­vants, who rejected the des­ig­na­tion, “the help.” Friedan’s under­stand­ing of women’s eman­ci­pa­tion – employ­ment out­side of the home – and silence on care – indica­tive of her lim­ited con­cept of work – became preva­lent by the late 1960s, just in time to main­tain mid­dle class con­sump­tion in the U.S. In the after­math of global eco­nomic reor­ga­ni­za­tion and the decline of the (white) male fam­ily wage in the sub­se­quent decades, women needed to become bread­win­ners. Friedan offered a vision fit­ting for the times, even if that was hardly her intent.10

Lib­eral fem­i­nists like Friedan recast work as lib­er­a­tion in offer­ing employ­ment as the solu­tion to “the prob­lem that has no name.” Women had to become more than “just a house­wife.” For house­work, which Friedan equated with fit work for “fee­ble-minded” girls, was unwor­thy of adult women with “aver­age or nor­mal human intel­li­gence.” While she does not speak of “care,” Friedan equally den­i­grates such activ­i­ties through asso­ci­a­tion: “wife, mis­tress, mother, nurse, con­sumer, cook, chauf­feur; expert on inte­rior dec­o­ra­tion, child care, appli­ance repair, fur­ni­ture refin­ish­ing, nutri­tion, and edu­ca­tion” defines the “mod­ern house­wife” who is exhausted so she can’t “read books, only mag­a­zi­nes” (25). Car­ing gets folded into “a world of bed­room and kitchen, sex, babies, and home,” all of which sig­nify lim­its to women’s hori­zons (30). “Hav­ing babies,” phys­i­cal repro­duc­tion, appears as the anti­dote to the housewife’s empti­ness – noth­ing more, not the pro­duc­tion of future labor power or a pro­duct of mother love.

Such a por­trait cap­tured the posi­tion of the white mid­dle class who, more than other women, were at mid-20th cen­tury able to remain out­side of the labor force and found paid work away from the home an attrac­tive alter­na­tive to bore­dom within. These were the women whose access to edu­ca­tion and other resources (includ­ing a white male wage) made it more likely that their work could be inter­est­ing and cre­ative. But Friedan neglected the lives of most women who even in the 1950s and 1960s found that they had to work (often part-time) at a job, not a pro­fes­sion, not for joy but to make ends meet or to cement that mid­dle-class life style.

Here lies the irony. Friedan was a woman of the left, a reporter for the pro­gres­sive United Elec­tri­cal Work­ers and the Fed­er­ated News Ser­vice.11 But she learned the wrong lesson from the Com­mu­nist and labor milieu she lived in dur­ing the 1940s and early 1950s. She embraced the dic­tum of Friedrich Engels in The Ori­gins of the Fam­ily, Pri­vate Prop­erty and the State (1884) that “the mod­ern indi­vid­ual fam­ily is founded on the open or con­cealed domes­tic slav­ery of the wife” and sec­ond, that “if she car­ries out her duties in the pri­vate ser­vice of her fam­ily, she remains excluded from pub­lic pro­duc­tion and unable to earn”; and third, “the first con­di­tion for the lib­er­a­tion of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into pub­lic indus­try,” that is, women had to go out to work in order to join together in social strug­gle and work for the com­mon good.12

Another Com­mu­nist analy­sis existed, one even­tu­ally embraced by women’s lib­er­a­tion, but dis­cred­ited pub­li­cally and loudly dur­ing the time when Friedan was involved with left pol­i­tics. In the 1940 In Women’s Defense, Cal­i­for­nia activist Mary Inman asserted that house­work, like fac­tory work, was pro­duc­tive labor. Inman pre­fig­ured much of the later domes­tic labor debate by claim­ing that “wide­spread den­i­gra­tion of house­work and child rear­ing” was what led to women’s sub­or­di­na­tion, not the eco­nomic func­tion of the work itself that pro­duced future and present labor power. Indeed, Inman con­tended that pro­fes­sional and busi­ness women – those who held the kinds of jobs that Friedan would tout as lib­er­at­ing – faced dis­crim­i­na­tion as women pre­cisely because of the way that house­wives were incor­po­rated into cap­i­tal­ism, that the “sub­ju­ga­tion” of the lat­ter shaped the dis­crim­i­na­tion towards the for­mer. House­wives engaged in “nec­es­sary social labor,” but they were indi­rectly related to pro­duc­tion, with “no direct con­tact with their exploiters” because they “work only at home, and the means of exploit­ing them is clear only when we take into account the entire sys­tem of pro­duc­tion.” As “a bearer and trainer of chil­dren,” that is, as a care­giver, she cre­ates prof­its by pro­duc­ing future labor. It wasn’t a ques­tion of biol­ogy but one of econ­omy. The work of all the sep­a­rate house­holds was “the pivot of the sys­tem.“13

Friedan offered a con­trast­ing view that, in devalu­ing the labors of the house­wife, denied the worth of the domes­tic ser­vant. The logic becomes, if this labor is so worth­less, so rou­tine, why pay decently to not have to do it? The “Help” in The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique are in the back­ground to the main action, the woman who employs them. Paid house­hold work­ers are referred to as “clean­ing help” (227, 234). Friedan sees that women can get along with­out such help, not­ing that “in the absence of ser­vants,” when they were in short sup­ply, dur­ing WWII, women fig­ured out how to rearrange domes­tic labor to enter the labor force; they “pooled” resources, orga­niz­ing work shifts so some­one was around to watch the chil­dren, or they relied on nurs­ery schools. But child care cen­ters with­ered away and even those who could afford a “full-time house­keeper,” whose sup­plies were up, took on all the home labors them­selves (176-177). So, while Friedan under­stood the sig­nif­i­cance of social sup­ports for labor force par­tic­i­pa­tion, her solu­tion was “a new life plan for women” (326), the (re)production of women through edu­ca­tion, and not bring­ing care­work and other forms of domes­tic labor into social pro­duc­tion, away from their pri­va­tized posi­tion. Instead she pushed for some women hir­ing other women to ful­fill home labors while leav­ing home for jobs.

Given these assump­tions – that domes­tic labors aren’t really work and that women should go out to work – it isn’t sur­pris­ing that even in the 1990s, Friedan insisted that the National Wel­fare Rights Move­ment was not fem­i­nist because it sought ade­quate income for poor sin­gle moth­ers, dis­pro­por­tion­ately black, to enable its mem­bers to reject the coer­cion of low waged work and gov­ern­ment work pro­grams (work­fare) to stay home and engage in moth­er­work.14 For his­tor­i­cally, black women were to be work­ers, not moth­ers, or the care­givers of other women’s chil­dren and homes, under­tak­ing the work that no one else wanted to do, which by the 1970s increas­ingly took place in the ser­vice sec­tor with the move­ment of repro­duc­tive labors to other work­places. Black women’s refusal of such work opened up the use of immi­grant women for home labors when more priv­i­leged women went out to work.15


How does the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of fem­i­nist com­men­ta­tors regard domes­tic and care labor? Blog­ging on The Fem­i­nist Wire in March 2012, Eng­lish and Women’s Stud­ies pro­fes­sor Sara Hosey chal­lenged the fem­i­nist fram­ing of care as work by “Reject­ing the Rhetoric of the ‘Sec­ond Shift’” as a move toward “Insist­ing on Equity.“16 Soci­ol­o­gist Arlie Hochschild famously referred to daily tasks under­taken for fam­ily – such as drop­ping off and pick­ing up from day­care, clean­ing the house, shop­ping for and prepar­ing food, get­ting chil­dren to bed, wash­ing clothes, pack­ing lunches, and mak­ing ready for going off in the morn­ing – as the “sec­ond shift,” hours of labor after (or before and some­times as snatches of time dur­ing) employ­ment.17 Much social sci­ence lit­er­a­ture shows that, decades into the new fem­i­nism, women still put many more hours than men into these activ­i­ties of self-care and social repro­duc­tion, so that in all kinds of het­ero­sex­ual house­holds they work the equiv­a­lent of an addi­tional part-time job.18 On the basis of her own expe­ri­ence with a male part­ner who does half the tasks, Hosey rejected the term “sec­ond shift” as an inap­pro­pri­ate, indeed, degrad­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tion of care activ­i­ties.

Hosey, of course, is not alone in wish­ing for an arena out­side of cap­i­tal­ism, free from the mar­ket, where we can be who we wish to be and where “inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships, care­giv­ing, and coop­er­a­tion” reign supreme. Notable fem­i­nist the­o­rists of the wel­fare state, such as Nancy Fraser and Ann Orloff, have approached the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of care as part of a larger cri­tique of neo-lib­eral pri­va­ti­za­tion and its dis­place­ment of social respon­si­bil­ity to fam­i­lies and the mar­ket.19 Addi­tion­ally, for many care the­o­rists, the very term “care­work econ­omy” rep­re­sents an oxy­moron. For these philoso­phers and pol­icy ana­lysts, care and econ­omy stand in for the “hos­tile words” of love and money, as soci­ol­o­gist Viviana Zelizer has cri­tiqued this strand of thought, an inscrip­tion of sep­a­rate sphere ide­ol­ogy with gen­dered attrib­utes repack­aged: women give care, men earn money.20

These fem­i­nist the­o­rists bemoan an increas­ing com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of aspects of life that they find should be pri­vate, inti­mate, and per­sonal, such as tend­ing to depen­dents, usu­ally defined as the frail, ill, and young.21 Philoso­pher Vir­ginia Held typ­i­fies such argu­ments in regard­ing “car­ing work as enabling those cared for to know that some­one val­ues them” and for “express­ing social con­nect­ed­ness… con­tribut­ing to children’s devel­op­ment and fam­ily sat­is­fac­tion, and… enabling social cohe­sion and well-being,” all out­side of mar­ket norms. Like­wise econ­o­mist Susan Him­mel­weit defends car­ing labor as a spe­cial kind of work involv­ing rela­tion­ship and emo­tional attach­ment so that “much of the qual­ity of our lives would be lost if the impo­si­tion of inap­pro­pri­ate forms of mar­ket ratio­nal­ity turned such work into mere labor.“22 Pol­icy ana­lyst Deb­o­rah Stone notes that the rules and reg­u­la­tions of car­ing in the pub­lic sphere “pro­mote dis­en­gage­ment, dis­tance, and impar­tial­ity,” while dis­count­ing the love, par­tial­ity, and attach­ment that many develop toward those cared for. Most care­givers, she con­cludes, feel demeaned by the label “‘worker,” for that implies man­aged, bureau­cratic con­cepts in con­trast to their own “rela­tional and per­sonal con­cepts of care.“23 In short, as his­to­rian Alice Kessler-Har­ris has charged, these com­plaints assume “that incor­po­rat­ing women into its [the eco­nomic mar­ket] com­pet­i­tive value sys­tem would negate female nur­tur­ing val­ues,” thus, negat­ing “the affec­tive com­po­nents of life.“24

Hosey joins those who ignore both the his­tory of inti­mate car­ing labors and the con­se­quence of state incor­po­ra­tion of care as cen­tral to the orga­ni­za­tion of pro­duc­tion, repro­duc­tion, and inequal­ity. Her con­cern is not with the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of inti­macy, as doc­u­mented by the­o­rists of sex work, but rather with the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of care as work. As a con­se­quence, by omis­sion, she, like Friedan, belit­tles the strug­gles of care work­ers for respect and dig­nity. Hosey thus rein­scribes class and race hier­ar­chies even as she argues for gen­der equity.

This recoil­ing from the lan­guage of exchange and invest­ment, which Hosey con­nects to the eco­nomic, occurs just as she links work with the eco­nomic (though these asso­ci­a­tions are not the only ones that work evokes). This move to the eco­nomic erases pos­i­tive mean­ings of work. We don’t embrace eco­nomic man or woman; instead we think of the eco­nomic as cold, cal­cu­lat­ing, or unfeel­ing. Hosey couches the act of under­stand­ing “par­ent­ing as ‘work’” with the verbs “mis­con­strues” and “demeans.” Label­ing care as work, she con­tends, will­fuly mis­reads “an oth­er­wise com­plex rela­tion­ship that is, at its best, defin­i­tively lov­ing and mutu­ally-reward­ing.” She refers to “larger rewards” than the mon­e­tary to explain time spent with fam­ily.

Hosey dis­cusses par­ent­ing and house­keep­ing together as two aspects of the sec­ond shift. She demotes the sig­nif­i­cance of house­keep­ing by rel­e­gat­ing it to “a quo­tid­ian part of life” and tak­ing it away “from the realm of the seri­ous.” She asserts, “there are bet­ter, more empow­ered ways to spend one’s time and money than scrub­bing and pol­ish­ing.” Here she repli­cates the divi­sion between spir­i­tual and menial house­work that black fem­i­nist the­o­rist Dorothy Roberts found in the dis­tinc­tion between par­ent­ing and clean­ing, the first per­formed by the white mis­tress and the sec­ond given to the black or brown maid, the first jus­ti­fied as moth­er­ing and the sec­ond deval­ued as toil. This sep­a­ra­tion reserves care for only some forms of inti­mate labor and jus­ti­fies low pay for those aspects that remain as work – and the fur­ther stigma­ti­za­tion of racial/ethnic women that per­form the less priv­i­leged tasks.25

It isn’t that Hosey has a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of work, though. She goes on to con­trast house­work with real forms of work out­side of employ­ment: “con­scious­ness-rais­ing and polit­i­cal lob­by­ing, the think­ing and writ­ing and orga­niz­ing that many of us have done and con­tinue to do, often in addi­tion to hold­ing down pay­ing jobs, pick­ing up after our­selves, and spend­ing time with our fam­i­lies.” These are activ­i­ties that fem­i­nist the­o­rist Kathi Weeks might lump under “Hours for What We Will,” but oth­ers might name com­mu­nity and cre­ative labors.26

There are con­se­quences to such think­ing, the equa­tion Care≠Work. Mid­way in her essay, Hosey admits that she is talk­ing about “clean­ing one’s own home” and doing other house­hold tasks “not for pay.” Focus­ing on unpaid forms of care and house­work, nonethe­less, obscures the rela­tion­ship between unpaid and paid forms of care. The first informs the sec­ond and its deval­u­a­tion. As soci­ol­o­gists Cameron Lynne Mac­Don­ald and David A. Mer­rill explain, care­work­ers suf­fer from “insti­tu­tional mis­recog­ni­tion that defines care work as non­work, as unskilled work, or female work­ers as non­work­ers; as well as inter­sub­jec­tive mis­recog­ni­tion that bars them from equal access to social esteem by the accu­mu­lated psy­chic harms inflicted on them in inter­ac­tions with oth­ers.“27

The Rising of the Domestic Workers

Such obscur­ing of the carer as a worker is par­tic­u­larly detri­men­tal, then, not only because it offers a ratio­nal­iza­tion for poor com­pen­sa­tion but also because it throws road­blocks against worker rights and union­iza­tion. As one domes­tic worker orga­nizer explained dur­ing the 1970s bat­tle in the United States for legal inclu­sion, “This is a gut woman’s issue. The rea­son we haven’t got­ten our rights as a paid per­son in the labor force is because men think they can get their wives or girl­friends to do the job with­out pay.“28 This con­fla­tion has jus­ti­fied dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The law in the United States is par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing in this regard. Unpaid care­work gar­ners no social secu­rity because there are no wages or rec­og­nized income taxed sep­a­rately. Depen­dent house­wives can gain husband’s pen­sion ben­e­fits; after 1970s reforms and court cases, divorce trans­fers some social secu­rity funds to them if the mar­riage lasted long enough, but divorce no longer comes auto­mat­i­cally with any com­pen­sa­tion for inti­mate labors, includ­ing house­work and child­care. The call for wages for house­work never rever­ber­ated polit­i­cally in the U.S., even though it exposed the eco­nomic rela­tion involved. But an unin­tended con­se­quence of the end of cover­ture, a demand of legal fem­i­nism that came to fruition in the late 1960s, was the end of alimony because men’s rights groups sup­ported such and the mon­e­tary valu­ing of house­work failed.29

Paid domes­tic work also stood out­side of the labor law. In 1940, the law clas­si­fied nurse-com­pan­ions and other in-home care work­ers hired directly by clients as domes­tic ser­vants and thus made them inel­i­gi­ble for old age insur­ance, unem­ploy­ment, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, min­i­mum wages, max­i­mum hours, or other labor laws.30 The exten­sion of women’s work for the fam­ily into the mar­ket cre­ated an arena eas­ily cor­doned off as impos­si­ble to reg­u­late.31 More impor­tant was the lack of pow­er­ful advo­cates for domes­tic work­ers and the racial­ism of New Deal­ers and their depen­dence on South­ern votes. Pro­fes­sional women had a vested inter­est in a cheap sup­ply of ser­vants and most house­wives did not view them­selves as employ­ers.32 Not until the 1950s would some domes­tic work­ers gain cov­er­age under Social Secu­rity.33

Inclu­sion under the fed­eral Fair Labor Stan­dards Act proved more dif­fi­cult. This was, in part, because, as one “man­power” expert explained in 1971, “the min­i­mum wage is… needed as a floor to express the socially rec­og­nized ‘value’ of the labor rather than to meet the income needs of all fam­ily heads,” but home labor lacked value.34 Con­gres­sional myopia over the worth of such labor – along with the polit­i­cal econ­omy of the South that ben­e­fited from depress­ing African Amer­i­can wages – pro­longed the polit­i­cal work of inclu­sion. In both claim­ing house­work as work and strug­gling against dis­crim­i­na­tion in the employ­ment of women, orga­nized fem­i­nism allied with domes­tic work­ers cleared the way for finally plac­ing domes­tic work into labor law.35 In 1974, two years after pro­fes­sional women gained access, Con­gress included domes­tic ser­vants in the wage and hour law.

These same amend­ments to the labor law ended up remov­ing home health aides and atten­dants from cov­er­age if hired by a third party, like a for-profit home health care agency. A def­i­n­i­tional ruse, a des­ig­na­tion as “elder com­pan­ions” who were like casual babysit­ters, reduced the home aide to a friendly vis­i­tor, an inter­pre­ta­tion of Con­gres­sional action by the Depart­ment of Labor at the time. The Supreme Court rat­i­fied what amounted to wage theft over thirty years later in 2007. The Obama admin­is­tra­tion in late 2011 pro­posed new rules to sup­plant this def­i­n­i­tion of home care as not work.36

It took twenty-one months, but finally on Sep­tem­ber 17, 2013, the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor announced final rules that ended the exclu­sion of home care work­ers from over­time and marked their recog­ni­tion as work­ers.37 Sig­nif­i­cantly, this change con­sid­ered care as work. It embed­ded def­i­n­i­tions of care as assis­tance of indi­vid­u­als with “Activ­i­ties of Daily Liv­ing” (i.e., “dress­ing, groom­ing, feed­ing, bathing, toi­let­ing, and trans­fer­ring”) and “Instru­men­tal Activ­i­ties of Daily Liv­ing” (i.e., “tasks that enable a per­son to live inde­pen­dently at home, such as meal prepa­ra­tion, dri­ving, light house­work, man­ag­ing finances, assis­tance with the phys­i­cal tak­ing of med­ica­tions and arrang­ing med­ical care”). Whereas the 1970s reg­u­la­tions exempted from the cat­e­gory of “elder com­pan­ions” those who spent over 20% of their hours in house­keep­ing and other domes­tic tasks, the Obama-era ones man­dated FLSA inclu­sion of those who per­form care for more than 20% of their time. Com­pan­ion­ship ser­vices then became restricted to “pro­vi­sion of fel­low­ship and pro­tec­tion.” These could include “engag[ing] the per­son in social, phys­i­cal, and men­tal activ­i­ties, such as con­ver­sa­tion, read­ing, games, crafts, accom­pa­ny­ing…” and being there with some­one in their home “to mon­i­tor the person’s safety and well-being.“38

In attempt­ing to dis­tin­guish care from com­pan­ion­ship, the rules repli­cated the strand of fem­i­nist thought that sep­a­rates phys­i­cal labors from rela­tional ones, rein­forc­ing the divi­sion between spir­i­tual and menial house­work. But as any care provider knows, the two can’t be so eas­ily parsed. The per­cent­age of hours rep­re­sents an attempt to quan­tify that which over­flows such frame­works. The com­plex­ity of the rules, and their care­ful des­ig­na­tion, reflected the attempt by admin­is­tra­tions to come to grips with the dual nature of care as rela­tion and labor.

As of the writ­ing of this essay in June 2015, it is not clear whether the Obama change in def­i­n­i­tion would ever come into effect. Just in time for Christ­mas 2014, at the behest of the Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, the Inter­na­tional Fran­chise Asso­ci­a­tion, and the National Asso­ci­a­tion for Home Care & Hos­pice, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard J. Leon (a George W. bush appointee) struck down the exten­sion of FLSA to these employ­ers of live-in home care work­ers. Imme­di­ately, Cal­i­for­nia delayed its state-level exten­sion of over­time to its Med­iCal funded work­ers and a sec­ond employer suit right after the New Year led the same judge to vacate the entire new rule. Home care work­ers face per­pet­ual low-wages, enhanced by the prospect of con­tin­u­ous lit­i­ga­tion delay­ing their inclu­sion in the labor law, as the Depart­ment of Labor appealed. What­ever side pre­vails, the other prob­a­bly will take the case to the Supreme Court.39

Like other dis­courses, legal con­struc­tions mat­ter. Home care work­ers had inter­nal­ized their non-worker sta­tus. Sur­veys con­cluded that many saw “their work more as ser­vice than as employ­ment.” Rather than work­ers, they were care­givers, a role “rooted in deep feel­ings about their reli­gious or cul­tural tra­di­tions.“40 Union­iza­tion would come to offer “an iden­tity as a worker’s part of a giant work-force, doing impor­tant work that mer­its recog­ni­tion, respect, and decent stan­dards.“41 One of the biggest chal­lenges was to make vis­i­ble an occu­pa­tion hid­den in the home and ren­dered illeg­i­ble by the law, but dur­ing the last third of the 20th cen­tury, that is pre­cisely what the Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tional Union (SEIU) and other unions man­aged to accom­plish by win­ning enabling leg­is­la­tion and guber­na­to­rial orders in var­i­ous states that cre­ated mech­a­nisms for col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing with gov­ern­ment agen­cies and put pres­sure on pri­vate employ­ers who were reim­bursed through pub­lic monies.

Today’s domes­tic worker move­ment – inter­na­tion­ally as well as in the United States – sim­i­larly has sought recog­ni­tion as work­ers. With pas­sage of ILO Con­ven­tion #189, “Decent Work for Domes­tic Work­ers,” in 2011, South African Myrtle Wit­booi, Chair of the Inter­na­tional Domes­tic Work­ers Net­work (IDWN), declared, “we are free – slaves no more, but work­ers.“42 Activists under­stood the role of domes­tic work in social repro­duc­tion. As Tan­za­nian trade union­ist Vicky Kanyoka has explained, “It is our work in house­holds that enables oth­ers to go out and be eco­nom­i­cally active… it is us who take care of your pre­cious chil­dren and your sick and elderly; we cook your food to keep you healthy and we look after your prop­erty when you are away.“43 This sen­ti­ment par­al­lels the one expressed by Sar­ita Gupta, the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jobs with Jus­tice, who has insisted that home care “work­ers are an invalu­able part of our econ­omy – they make all other work pos­si­ble.“44

Union­iza­tion of home care work­ers has hit an impasse with shift­ing polit­i­cal winds in the United States, as I have explained else­where. The momen­tum today is with the National Domes­tic Worker Alliance and its affil­i­ates, who have pushed for bills of rights. Passed in New York, Hawaii, Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Ore­gon, and Con­necti­cut, these bills vary in scope, but all seek to extend labor pro­tec­tions, espe­cially over­time, to pri­vate house­hold work­ers. They seek to rec­og­nize care as work and pro­pel immi­grant women of color, the major­ity of those involved in domes­tic worker asso­ci­a­tions, into eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship.45

Domes­tic work­ers are cre­at­ing a new care move­ment to bring the needs of care receivers and providers together, those who do house­hold labor and those who use such labor. The Car­ing Across the Gen­er­a­tions ini­tia­tive, begun in 2011, joins rights and respect with love, “to build a more car­ing econ­omy for all of us.“46 It calls for decent work and a sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion pol­icy, social­ized ser­vices and atten­tion to human depen­den­cies, with train­ing, labor stan­dards, and par­tic­i­pa­tion by fam­i­lies and paid work­ers alike. This coali­tion calls for estab­lish­ing a path­way to stay­ing for immi­grant care work­ers, that is, ade­quate visas for care­work­ers.

The National Domes­tic Work­ers Alliance with its coali­tion part­ners offers hope. This move­ment is try­ing to re-sig­nify the mean­ing of love away from mammy’s nat­u­ral feel­ings to a social jus­tice goal. The affect evoked is pow­er­ful. For suc­cess, the move­ment is tak­ing advan­tage of our valu­ing of pro­duc­tion by claim­ing that house­hold labor, that is social repro­duc­tion, is cen­tral to the orga­ni­za­tion of home and work.


That domes­tic and care work­ers par­take in the lan­guage of pro­duc­tion makes them leg­i­ble. They do so try­ing to shift the dis­cus­sion by re-con­nect­ing pro­duc­tion and repro­duc­tion. In some sense, over thirty years ago, Ben­ería was push­ing the world of devel­op­ment experts to under­stand this inter­re­la­tion. She came to root women’s sub­or­di­na­tion in var­i­ous modes of repro­duc­tive labor. But on the ground, the ILO tech­ni­cal assis­tance pro­grams sought to rede­ploy fam­ily labor into income gen­er­at­ing activ­i­ties, as with milk and hand­i­craft coop­er­a­tives. Care became work.47

Are there other ways to con­sider care? Fem­i­nist the­o­rist Kathi Weeks cri­tiques the ten­dency to regard “the ethic of care… as an ethic of work.” Demands for inclu­sion – into employ­ment and wage labor, like Friedan, or by renam­ing care as work, as by unions and domes­tic worker asso­ci­a­tions – “risks con­test­ing the gen­dered orga­ni­za­tion of a cap­i­tal­ist work soci­ety by repro­duc­ing its fun­da­men­tal val­ues.” The refusal to work need not be a refusal to care but rather to be caught in fam­ily val­ues, queer or not, rather than in the activ­i­ties that enhance “as the auton­o­mist Marx­ist tra­di­tion might have it – of mak­ing some space for the col­lec­tive auton­omy that might alter some of the terms of such choices.” Such a recon­cep­tu­al­iza­tion might move us from care as a rela­tion of depen­dency to care as a strug­gle for social inter­de­pen­dence. End­ing nat­u­ral­ized notions of repro­duc­tive labor, Weeks sug­gests, is a first step.48

Per­haps con­sid­er­ing care as work isn’t “capit­u­la­tion to cap­i­tal­ism” – or its mys­ti­cal think­ing. A respon­dent to Hoey on the blo­gos­phere offered an alter­na­tive rea­son­ing by insist­ing that “unpaid care lets the rest of soci­ety, espe­cially cap­i­tal, off the hook.” To be utopian about care would then mean rec­og­niz­ing that the exis­tence of care work “declares that paid work is pos­si­ble with­out a cap­i­tal­ist, with­out exploita­tion, with­out wages, and with­out com­modi­ties.” This posi­tion refuses to see the mak­ing of peo­ple – “our bod­ies, our rea­son, and the gifts of lan­guage, cul­ture, and the social orga­ni­za­tion of the world they give rise to” – as reducible to com­modi­ties. That is, “to name care as work that must be remu­ner­ated cries out for an alter­na­tive eco­nomic the­ory that rec­og­nizes the eco­nomic value of the human con­nec­tions and prac­tices about which we care most deeply.“49

We all may desire a realm of free­dom, but care work by its very nature responds to a world of con­straint. It exists because of inabil­i­ties, oth­er­wise known as the lim­its of the human con­di­tion. To speak of inde­pen­dence and care is to obfus­cate the rela­tion­ship between care provider and receiver. The goal of social pro­grams to free frail elderly or dis­abled peo­ple from depen­dency too often have val­ued the needs of the receiver by ignor­ing the provider or turn­ing the per­former of care into a tool, an appendage, a means of the inde­pen­dence and free­dom of the other, whose sta­tus is of utmost con­cern and so the work of care becomes obscured with a focus on the results of such labor. The con­di­tions of the care worker can be rightly ignored because the focus is on the taker, receiver, client, cus­tomer, all names for the one who is cared for. But to embrace depen­dency and the need for com­mu­nity, to cel­e­brate inter­de­pen­dency, now that might just form the basis for a utopia that works – embrac­ing pro­duc­tion, repro­duc­tion, home, and work or dis­solv­ing the dis­tinc­tion as we reveal in our per­son­hoods together.

  1. This is a revised ver­sion of a paper pre­sented at “Tra­balho E Gênero,” Uni­ver­sity of São Paulo in Octo­ber 2013 and sub­se­quently pub­lished as Pro­dução e repro­dução, casa e tra­balho. Tempo soc. [online]. 2014, vol.26, n.1:101-121 at I thank Helena Hirata and Nadya Araujo Guimarães for invit­ing me to par­tic­i­pate in their sem­i­nar series. 

  2. Lour­des Ben­ería to Mrs. Ahmad, Mrs. Kor­chounova (Femmes), “Com­ments des Pro­gres Inter­venus dans l’Application du Principe de l’Egalite de Chances et de Traite­ment pour les Tra­vailleuses Inven­taire des Don­nees a Rassembler,’”Minute Sheet, 6.6.77, WN-1-1-02-1000, ILO Archives, Geneva. 

  3. This para­graph and the next draws upon Eileen Boris, “The Home as a Work­place: Decon­struct­ing Dichotomy,” Inter­na­tional Review of Social His­tory, 39 (Decem­ber, 1994), 415-28; Eileen Boris and Car­olyn Lewis, “Care­giv­ing and Wage-Earn­ing: A His­tor­i­cal Per­spec­tive On Work and Fam­ily,” The Hand­book of Work and Fam­ily: Mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary Per­spec­tives and Approaches, edited by Pitt-Cat­souphes, Kossek, and Sweet (Mah­wah, New Jer­sey: Lawrence Erl­baum, 2006), 73-97 

  4. Silva Fed­erici, Rev­o­lu­tion at Point Zero: House­work, Repro­duc­tion, and Fem­i­nist Strug­gle (Oak­land, Ca: PM Press, 2012). 

  5. My book with Jen­nifer Klein, Car­ing for Amer­ica: Home Health Work­ers in the Shadow of the Wel­fare State (New York: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2012), may be said to belong to this effort. 

  6. Ellen Malos, ed. The Pol­i­tics of House­work (Lon­don: New Clar­ion Press, 1995); Joce­lyn Olcott, “Intro­duc­tion: Research­ing and Rethink­ing the Labors of Love,” His­panic Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Review, 91 (Feb­ru­ary 2011), 1-27. 

  7. Eve­lyn Nakano Glenn, “Cre­at­ing a Car­ing Soci­ety,” Con­tem­po­rary Soci­ol­ogy 29 (Jan­u­ary 2000), 84-94; Viviana A. Zelizer, The Pur­chase of Inti­macy (Prince­ton: Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Press, 2005).  

  8. Paula Eng­land, “Emerg­ing The­o­ries of Care Work,” Annual Review of Soci­ol­ogy 31 (2005), 381-99; Nell Nod­dings, Start­ing at Home: Car­ing and Social Pol­icy (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2002); Nancy Fol­bre, The Invis­i­ble Heart: Eco­nom­ics and Fam­ily Val­ues (New York: New Press, 2001); Rhacel Salazar Par­renas, Ser­vants of Glob­al­iza­tion (Stan­ford: Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Press, 2001); Dorothy E. Roberts, “Spir­i­tual and Menial House­work,” Yale Jour­nal of Law and Fem­i­nism 9 (1997) 51-80. 

  9. Leopold­ina For­tu­nati, The Arcane of Repro­duc­tion (New York: Autono­me­dia, 1989). 

  10. Betty Friedan, The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique (New York: Dell, 1963). All sub­se­quent quo­ta­tions (embed­ded in the text) are from the Sixth print­ing, Octo­ber 1972, paper­back edi­tion. 

  11. Daniel Horow­itz, Betty Friedan and the Mak­ing of The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique: The Amer­i­can Left, The Cold War, and Mod­ern Fem­i­nism (Amherst: Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Press, 1998).  

  12. Fred­er­ick Engels, The Origin of the Fam­ily, Pri­vate Prop­erty and the State (New York: Pen­guin Clas­sics, 2010), 104-6.  

  13. Mary Inman, In Women’s Defense (Los Ange­les: The Com­mit­tee to Defend Women’s Advance­ment, 1940), 137, 145. 

  14. Friedan com­ment at the Woodrow Wilson Cen­ter when I was in the audi­ence, c. 1994. 

  15. Eve­lyn Nakano Glenn, ” From Servi­tude to Ser­vice Work: His­tor­i­cal Con­ti­nu­ities in the Racial Divi­sion of Paid Repro­duc­tive Labor,” Signs, (Autumn, 1992), 1-43; Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich and Arlie Rus­sell Hochschild, Global Woman: Nan­nies, Maids, and Sex Work­ers in the New Econ­omy (New York: Met­ro­pol­i­tan Books, 2002). 

  16. Sara Hosey, “Reject­ing the Rhetoric of the ‘Sec­ond Shift’ and Insist­ing on Equity,” The Fem­i­nist Wire, March 26, 2012, at http://the­fem­i­nist­­ing-the-rhetoric-of-the-sec­ond-shift-and-insist­ing-on-equity/, last accessed May 10, 2012. 

  17. Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung, The Sec­ond Shift (New York: Pen­guin, 2003 edi­tion). 

  18. “Men vs. Women: How much time spent on kids, job, chores?” USA Today, March 14, 2013 at http://www.usato­; Suzanne Bianchi, “Fam­ily Change and Time Allo­ca­tion in Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies,” Focus on Work­place Flex­i­bil­ity, Work­ing Paper, 2010, at 

  19. Nancy Fraser, “The Strug­gle Over Needs: Out­line of a Social­ist Fem­i­nist Crit­i­cal The­ory of Late Cap­i­tal­ist Polit­i­cal Cul­ture,” in Women, the State, and Wel­fare, 199-225; Ann Orloff, “Gen­der in the Wel­fare State,” Annual Review of Soci­ol­ogy 22 (1996), 51-78. 

  20. Zelizer, The Pur­chase of Inti­macy, 20-6. 

  21. Arlie Rus­sell Hochschild, The Com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Inti­mate Life: Notes from Home and Work (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2003); Joan C. Williams and Viviana A. Zelizer, “To Com­mod­ify or Not to Com­mod­ify: That Is Not the Ques­tion,” in Martha M. Ert­man and Joan C. Williams, Rethink­ing Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion: Cases and Read­ings in Law and Cul­ture (New York: NYU Press, 2005), 362-3. 

  22. Vir­ginia Held, “Care and the Exten­sion of Mar­kets,” Hypa­tia, 17 (Spring 2002), 21-2; Susan Him­mel­weit, “Car­ing Labor,” ANNALS, AAPSS, 561 (Jan­u­ary 1999), 37.  

  23. Deb­o­rah Stone, “Car­ing by the Book,” in Care Work: Gen­der, Labor, and the Wel­fare State, ed. Madonna Har­ring­ton Meyer (New York: Rout­ledge, 2000), 110. 

  24. Alice Kessler-Har­ris, “In Pur­suit of Eco­nomic Cit­i­zen­ship,” Social Pol­i­tics: Inter­na­tional Stud­ies in Gen­der, State, and Soci­ety 10 (Sum­mer 2003), 171.  

  25. Roberts, “Spir­i­tual and Menial House­work.” 

  26. Kathi Weeks, “‘Hours for What We Will’: Work, Fam­ily, and the Move­ment for Shorter Hours,” Fem­i­nist Stud­ies 35 (Spring 2009). 

  27. Cameron Lynne Mac­Don­ald and David A. Mer­rill, “‘It Shouldn’t Have to Be a Trade’: Recog­ni­tion and Redis­tri­b­u­tion in Care Work Advo­cacy,” Hypa­tia 17 (Spring 2002), 75. 

  28. Quoted in Pre­milla Nadasen, “Cit­i­zen­ship Rights, Domes­tic Work, and the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” Jour­nal of Pol­icy His­tory 24, no.1 (2012), 85. 

  29. Lisa Lev­en­stein, “‘Don’t Ago­nize, Orga­nize!’ The Dis­placed Home­mak­ers Cam­paign and the Con­tested Goals of Post­war Fem­i­nism,” The Jour­nal of Amer­i­can His­tory, 100 (Decem­ber 2014): 144-1680. 

  30. Mary Poole, The Seg­re­gated Ori­gins of Social Secu­rity: African Amer­i­cans and the Wel­fare State (Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 2006). 

  31. “Exten­sion of Old-Age and Sur­vivors Insur­ance to Addi­tional Groups of Cur­rent Work­ers,” Report of the Con­sul­tant Group, in U.S. Con­gress, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means, Hear­ings Before the Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means on H.R. 7199, Social Secu­rity Amend­ments of 1954, 83 rd Con­gress, 2nd Sess. (Wash­ing­ton DC: GPO, 1954), 875. 

  32. Phyl­lis Palmer, Domes­tic­ity and Dirt: House­wives and Domes­tic Ser­vants in the United States, 1920-1945 (Philadel­phia: Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity Press, 1989), 118-35; Vanessa May, Unpro­tected Labor: House­hold Work­ers, Pol­i­tics, and Mid­dle-Class Reform in New York, 1870-1940 (Chapel Hill: Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina Press, 2011). 

  33. “Exten­sion of Old-Age and Sur­vivors Insur­ance to Addi­tional Groups of Cur­rent Work­ers,” 865. 

  34. Sar A. Lev­i­tan, “State­ment Pre­pared for the Sub­com­mit­tee on Labor, Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Labor and Pub­lic Wel­fare,” U.S. Con­gress, Sen­ate, Com­mit­tee on Labor and the Pub­lic Wel­fare, Fair Labor Stan­dards Amend­ments of 1971, Hear­ings Before the Sub­com­mit­tee on Labor of the Com­mit­tee on Labor and Pub­lic Wel­fare on S. 1861 and S.2259, 92nd Con­gress, 1st sess. (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: GPO, 1972), Part 5, 1788. 

  35. Phyl­lis Palmer, “Out­side of the Law: Domes­tic and Agri­cul­tural Work­ers under the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” Jour­nal of Pol­icy His­tory, 7, no.4 (1995), 416-40; Nadasen, “Cit­i­zen­ship Rights, Domes­tic Work, and the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act,” 74-94. 

  36. For this story, see Boris and Klein, Car­ing for Amer­ica

  37. Steven Green­house, “U.S. to Include Home Care Aides in Wage and Over­time Law,” New York Times, Sep­tem­ber 17, 2013. 

  38. Wage and Hour Divi­sion, Fact Sheet #79A, Sep­tem­ber 2013, at 

  39. United States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia, Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, et al. v. David Weil, et al, Case No. 14-cv-967, Decem­ber 22, 2014; United States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia, Home Care Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, et al. v. David Weil, et al, Case No. 14-cv-967, Jan­u­ary 14, 2015. 

  40. The Feld­man Group, Inc., “Focus Group Memo Home­care Work­ers,” Pre­pared for the Home­care Work­ers Union, April, 1998, 2, 7, 8, Janet Hein­ritz-Can­ter­bury Papers, in author’s pos­ses­sion. 

  41. “Orga­niz­ing Home­care,” 3, SEIU Orga­niz­ing Gen­eral 1984-92, box 42, folder, “Health Care Orga­niz­ing, 1992,” SEIU Papers, Reuther Library, Wayne State. 

  42. Inter­na­tional Domes­tic Work­ers Net­work. “A Mes­sage from Myrtle Wit­booi, IDWN Chair,” IDWN News, Octo­ber 2011.­li­ca­tions/IDWN_Newslet­ter_2011.pdf  

  43. State­ment of Ms. Vicky Kanyoka, Inter­na­tional Labour Con­fer­ence Pro­ceed­ings, 99th Ses­sion, 2010, 8/41.  

  44. State­ment in Press Release, PHI, “In Response to Fed­eral Law­suit, Work­ers, Con­sumers and Advo­cates Call for Fed­eral Min­i­mum Wage and Over­time Pro­tec­tions for Nation’s Two Mil­lion Home Care Work­ers,” May7, 2015, http://phi­na­­na­­is­la­tion-reg­u­la­tions/05072015-flsagroup­press­re­lease, last assessed June 22, 2015. 

  45. On this move­ment, see http://www.domes­tic­work­; 

  46. Talk by Ai-Jen Poo, March 11, 2015, Santa Bar­bara, CA. 

  47. Lour­des Ben­ería, “Repro­duc­tion, Pro­duc­tion and the Sex­ual Divi­sion of Labour,” Cam­bridge Jour­nal of Eco­nom­ics (1979), 203-225; Eileen Boris, “Difference’s Other: The ILO and ‘Women in Devel­op­ing Coun­tries,’” in West Meets East: The ILO from Geneva to the Paci­fic Rim, Nel­son Licht­en­stein and Jill Jensen, eds. (Pal­grave, ILO Cen­tury Project Series), in press. 

  48. Kathi Weeks, The Prob­lem with Work (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­sity Press, 2011), 67-8, 168. 

  49. Joseph de la Torre Dwyer, “Gen­der Equity Still Requires a Focus on the ‘Sec­ond Shift,’” the­fem­i­nist­wire, April 4, 2012, at http://the­fem­i­nist­­der-equity-still-requires-a-focus-on-the-sec­ond-shift/, last accessed May 13, 2012. 

Author of the article

is the Hull Professor of Feminist Studies and Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She teaches on Marxism and Feminism, writes on home labors and is an active supporter of the self-organizing of domestic workers.