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(Re)Centering the discourse and practice of caring labor: The intersection of feminist thought and cooperative childcare


This research examines a range of differences among for-profit, non-profit, and cooperative childcare centers using cross-sectional survey data obtained from approximately 748 childcare centers and 2,743 staff members throughout Canada (Doherty, Lero, Goelman, LaGrange, & Tougas, 2000). I make use of feminist theories of care to critically analyze the ways in which for-profit, non-profit, and cooperative childcare centers "value" this type of care, as evidenced by several indicators of labor quality (e.g., wages, benefits, advancement opportunity, workplace social capital). Findings indicate that much like previous research demonstrating a non-profit labor advantage (e.g., Doherty, Friendly, & Forer, 2002), cooperatives also tend to "value" this labor to a greater extent than do for-profit centers, as evidenced by: higher wages; greater employee satisfaction with pay, benefits, and promotional opportunities; better assessments of work situation (e.g., my work gives me a sense of accomplishment); higher levels of de-centralization (i.e., extent to which others can and do have input into decision-making), formalization (i.e., extent to which roles and responsibilities are standardized and explicit), and overall organizational influence; as well as, greater odds of unionization, participation in professional development, and intentions to remain working in the childcare field. And, cooperative employees in particular, reported the highest levels of de-centralized decision-making practices. These findings have implications in several domains. First, continued research and development of non-profit and cooperative models of childcare is warranted, given the ways in which they significantly outperformed for-profit centers with respect to several indicators of labor quality. Second, a (re)assessment of current union legislation is also merited, based on the strong, positive association between unionization and hourly wages. Third, further development and codification of de-centralized decision making practices is supported, given their demonstrated associations with enhanced service quality in previous research. Forth, further development and enhancement of educational advancement opportunities among early childhood educators--to include the creation of a work climate that more adequately supports more highly educators providers (e.g., greater mentoring opportunities, higher salary, lower turnover)--appears necessary given the finding that more highly educated staff are less likely to remain in the field. And, finally, there is a call for continued use of research concerning childcare labor to inform and enrich the theoretical dialogue concerning caring labor more generally.

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