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Abstract

Domestic workers are hired cleaners, nannies, home care aides, personal care who provide childcare in their own home. Although domestic worker activists have won domestic workers’ bills of rights (of varying strength) in nine states and two cities in the U.S., these workers remain unprotected by many federal labor protections and state employment laws. Most studies of domestic workers investigate their organizing efforts in major cities and hold that worker identity feeds into collective identity—both critical to building worker solidarity. In this study, I document the experiences of domestic workers in small Texas cities, grouped in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Texas, to reveal how domestic workers organize their thoughts about their paid labor. The central aim of this pilot study is to understand how domestic workers view themselves, their work, and what organizing means to them through the lens of their personal experiences. Through interviews with four domestic workers—two personal care aides, an independent cleaner, and a nanny—I find that terminology is central to how domestic workers understand their labor; domestic workers often juxtapose the positive aspects of their labor, tied to emotional attachments, with the negative aspects of the job; and the domestic worker movement must contend with the complex history of labor in the South to build cross-boundary solidarity. Implications of this pilot study can help domestic worker labor organizers in the U.S. approach their work with greater specificity and effectiveness.

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