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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Organizing Home Care: Low-Waged Workers in the Welfare State


Unionization of home care has depended on the state location of the occupation. Government social policies and funding created home care, shaping the structure of the industry and the conditions of work. The welfare nexus, linking old age, disability, health, and welfare policies, however, also transformed care hidden in the home into a public service. Through case studies of California and Oregon, leaders in deinstitutionalizing care of the elderly and disabled, we explore the social struggles that forced the state to recognize its invisible workforce. The home location of personal attendants and other health aides has entailed not only organizing challenges but policy innovation as well. Using the welfare state location of the labor, workers allied with consumers to develop the public authority as a newstructure of representation. The history of home care shows that social welfare and health policy have long been entangled with labor policy.

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