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CAWLS 2016 Conference, University of Calgary, 1-2 June 2016

Building Solidarity in Care Work

Convenor: Donna Baines, University of Sydney

Canada saw its most significant job growth in lower level care work in the last few years, and yet care work remains under-researched and under-theorized. Though the demand for care work is expanding, wages and working conditions are not improving significantly, defying market rationales claiming that wages will rise as demand for particular skills sets increases. This is partly because care work is both a form of hard work with a distinct set of skills and knowledge, as well as an interactive form of human solidarity. Care work is often thought of as operating both within the formal economy, where the profit motive reigns, as well as within a moral economy in which workers and services users value caring interactions and commitment to the common good. The overlap of the formal and moral economies become a nexus for increased exploitation was employers depend on the unpaid work of caring employees to stretch scare funding. Unpaid care work can simultaneously be a source of resistance and solidarity as workers gain shared identities as those who stand against uncaring funders and governments, and develop shared critiques and analyses. Resistance and solidarity take the form of isolated, individual acts as well as more collective strategies. Some unions have tapped into these oppositional storylines to build social and community unionism, while others have attempted to raise the status of the sector through bread and butter bargaining for better wages, conditions and training.

This stream invites papers addressing any of the many aspects of care work and the many ways that it is a form of building social solidarity, community and, sometimes, shared activist, oppositional identities and collective resistance strategies within and outside unions.

Please send your paper proposal to

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