Book: Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

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Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

Jennifer Klein, professor of history, and Eileen Boris

(Oxford University Press)

In this narrative history from the Great Depression of the 1930s to the Great Recession of today, “Caring for America” rethinks both the history of the American welfare state from the perspective of care work and chronicles how home care workers eventually became one of the most vibrant forces in the American labor movement.

Jennifer Klein and Eileen Boris demonstrate the ways in which law and social policy made home care a low-waged job that was stigmatized as welfare and relegated to the bottom of the medical hierarchy.

At the front and center of the narrative are the workers — poor women of color — who have challenged the racial, social, and economic stigmas embedded in the system. “Caring for America” traces the intertwined, sometimes conflicting search of care providers and receivers for dignity, self-determination, and security. It highlights the senior citizen and independent living movements; the civil rights organizing of women on welfare and domestic workers; the battles of public sector unions; and the unionization of health and service workers. It rethinks the strategies of the U.S. labor movement in terms of a growing care work economy. Finally, it makes the argument that care is a basic right for all and that care work merits a living wage.

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