Friday, June 08, 2007

In other words,

or at least, putting in my own words what I think saltyfemme meant by bringing up Betty Friedan's "Problem that Has No Name in relation to the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. Off the comments in this post, basically,

I think it's more, "Friedan's observation that 'womens' work' is considered unworthy of recompense" (as well as her still-useful -for a certain demographic- that the "lady of the house" ideal was oppressive when presented as the -only- option) was a good starting point, but not sufficient, and we need to move on to understand all the other ramifications of that:

1) someone -still- has to do that "domestic" work, and "someone" IS, and it's still a concern for feminism as well as yep it's tied up with racism, immigration, the greater socioeconomic framework, and so on and so forth. and yeah, that has old roots, too, but it's past time that middle class + white feminists started understanding its import

2) there's a feminist critique to be made on top of the should-be-obvious observations that hi, everyone deserves a living wage and who takes care of the caretakers?: namely, that, as with other things generally disdained by second wave feminism, very probably out of reaction formation (no one wants to embrace something that's been crammed down your throat), i.e. "femininity," certain forms of serxuality, etc. etc.: there's nothing INHERENTLY degrading about the work known as "domestic." (for men OR women). Cooking? "House beautiful?" Raising kids, for heaven's sake? Those are not only vital functions, they are, yep, possible avenues for creativity and even satisfaction.

What ISN'T cool is saying "that's your role in life, so get to it," even if you have absolutely no affinity for this and would prefer to be playing the piano or welding or running a business. What ISN'T cool is patting people on the head and suggesting that the "creative" function ought to be ENOUGH, when gee golly -you're- working a job that suits you -and- you get material recompense, and maybe even don't have to do it 60-80 hours a week with no relief or help. What ISN'T cool is shunting the "dirty work" off to another group of women so that you can go off and be a world-beater; meanwhile, not only are they in the position you rejected and THEN some, they're not even doing it for their -own family,- but -yours.- That is, your needs, your kids, your house come FIRST, because otherwise she can't put food on the table at all. That's...not so hot, maybe.

More to the point of the actual proposal, neither is the de facto status of domestic workers, who are currently specifically "exempt" from various labor and human rights laws.

From the Executive Summary handed out at the town hall meeting yesterday:

The National Labor Relations Act guarantees U.S> employees the right to organize, but specifically excludes domestic workers from its definition of "employee."

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets a federal minimum wage wate, maximum hours, and overtime for employees in certain occupations. Until 1974, domestic workers were completely excluded, and today the Act still excludes from coverage "casual" employees such as babysitters and "companions" for the sick or elderly. Furthermore, live-in domestic workers, unlike most other employees in the U.S. cannot get overtime under FLSA [BD's editorial note, yes, this has been undercut in various ways for other people too in recent-ish years]

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations explicitly exclude domestic workers from the Act's protections [a]s a matter of policy." Civil Rights Laws: Title VII bars employment discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" [BD editorial note, that is correct, "sexual orientation" ain't on it, much less gender presentation, and it's coming around again, more on that in a later post,] but applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. Thus, virtually every domestic worker in the U.S. is de facto excluded from Title VII's protections.

What this means is that, (based on a survey Domestic Workers United took between 2003-04), very few domestic workers make what's considered a "livable wage," and a good 25% are making below the poverty line. Ninety percent do not receive health benefits from their employers. (oh, yeah, health insurance. That subject. Have I mentioned I can't -wait- till "Sicko" comes out? /digression). Many work overtime without getting paid overtime wages, especially those who live in their employers' homes. Oh yeah, and, there's really no job security, so that someone who's been working for the same employer for years and years can be abruptly fired with no recourse. Which is particularly great, again, for someone who's been living in the employer's house. Finally: a good 60% of domestic workers (overwhelmingly women of color) are the primary income earner for their families. So, if mom's fired, the kids are...kind of screwed. So, mom's over a barrel, basically, a lot of the time. Which in no way makes for an atmosphere in which abuses are likely.

The handout gives a bit more background to "valuing domestic work:"

The struggle of domestic work is to be recognized as "real work." ITs historical roots in slavery, its association with women's unpaid household labor, its largely immigrant and women of color workforce and exclusion from legal protections devalue their work.

Historically, Africal slaves, indentured servants or hired maids performed housework. After the abolition of slavery, the paid domestic workforce became predominantly Black women until the Civil Rights movement opened doors to other occupations. Since the 1970s, a growing workforce of immigrant women of color seeking to escape poverty created by U.S.-driven neoliberal policies abroad occupies the industry. Survey results found that 99% [emphasis mine] of domestic workers in New York are foreign-born.

And by the way, if any of y'all were wondering what "intersecting oppressions" meant, that might be a handy little primer right there.

I've got a lot to learn, too. Clearly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oklahoma Take a piece of me