Household Worker Organizing, Its Lessons for Labor Today
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/09/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21273
Domestic work is representative of a paradigmatic shift in labour, as the conditions of labour for other workers seem to converge with and more closely resemble those of private household workers.
African-American household workers are an important, if somewhat understudied, component of the post-World War II Black freedom and labor movements. They participated in civil rights campaigns and also formed an independent movement for workers' rights.
Less than 20 years after the decline of this movement, another struggle for household workers' rights emerged, made up primarily of immigrant women. Looking at these two movements together allows us to think about the shifting economic climate for labor organizing, but also how both of these movements relied on history and storytelling as political strategy. And it suggests that working-class struggle is present even in the current seemingly bleak organizing climate.
In the 1950s and 1960s, domestic workers were a large percentage of the grass-roots activists who participated in civil rights campaigns, perhaps most evidently in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Historians have documented how domestic workers were strategically positioned in white households to gather information, provided a mass base both in street demonstrations and in church meetings, and sometimes served as local leaders because of their knowledge and standing in the community.