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Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, “Organizing Home Care: Low-Waged Workers in the Welfare State”

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein

Politics and Society, Vol. 34 No.1, March 2006, 81-107. [PDF]

Commemorating the death of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1988, a hundred Los Angeles home care workers marched to demand union recognition. “This is Memphis all over again,” civil rights leaders addressed the mostly female and minority crowd. “We are saying again today, ‘We are somebody.’ We’re men and women who deserve to be treated with dignity”! For over a decade, all across the nation, these caretakers of the frail elderly and the disabled had been asking for “respect, dignity and an increase in our wages.”2 They were a hidden workforce, located in the home and confused with both the labor of domestic servants and the care work of wives and mothers.3 After 74,000 entered the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in 1999, media celebrated these minimum-waged, predominantly Latina, Black, and immigrant women, who pulled off the largest gain in union membership since the sit-down strikes of the 1930s.4 This organizing, however, depended on the welfare state location of the labor-that is, on the prior organizing of home care through law and social policy during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Read more…

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Categories: labor and capital, welfare

Theda Skocpol, “A Society without a ‘State’? Political Organization, Social Conflict, and Welfare Provision in the United States”

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

“A Society without a ‘State’? Political Organization, Social Conflict, and Welfare Provision in the United States”

Theda Skocpol

Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1987), pp. 349-371

This article was originally presented at the Institute on ‘Foreign Perspectives on the U.S. Constitution,’ sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies at the Wingspread Conference Center, Racine, Wisconsin, on 29 September 1987. It draws upon some material presented in the introduction to The Politics of Social Policy in the United States,  edited by Margaret Weir, Ann Shola Orloff, and Theda Skocpol (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988).

‘State and society’ are terms of reference bound to seem out of place in a discussion of the Constitution and governance of the United States of America. As an insightful observer once put it (Pollard 1925, 31), ‘Americans may be defined as that part of the English-speaking world which instinctively revolted against the doctrine of the sovereignty of the State and has … striven to maintain that attitude from the time of the Pilgrim Fathers to the present day.’ Citizens of the United States view themselves as fortunate not to be subject to any overbearing ‘State.’ And foreign observers rightly have trouble identifying elements of concentrated sovereignty in the American political system – except, perhaps, when the USA acts aggressively on the world stage.

This article will touch upon historical reasons why Americans lack a sense of the state. Primarily, however, I shall argue that we can learn a surprising amount about American society and politics by treating state-society relationships in more analytical terms. It is an ethnocentric illusion to imagine that the United States has been a dynamic society and capitalist economy ‘unencumbered’ by any state. Instead, the specific organizational forms that state activities have taken in America have profoundly affected the social cleavages that have gained political expression, and helped to determine the sorts of public policies that US governments have – and have not – pursued from the nineteenth century to the present day. Drawing upon my own current research, I can illustrate this argument by exploring why US patterns of public social provision differ from those associated with European welfare states. If the US constitution is construed broadly to mean not just a document drawn up in 1787-8 but an entire configuration of governance with associated cultural meanings, then this constitution has much to tell us about why American social policies have come to be as they are. Read more…

Categories: histories, welfare

Gwendolyn Mink, “The Lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist Welfare Politics, Poor Single Mothers and the Challenge of Welfare Justice”

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

“The Lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist Welfare Politics, Poor Single Mothers and the Challenge of Welfare Justice”

Gwendolyn Mink

Feminist Studies, Vol. 24 No. 1 (Spring, 1998). pp. 55-64.

I have worked in various political venues on welfare issues for ten years-for about as long as I have been researching and writing about women and U.S. social policy.’ Most recently, I worked as a Steering Committee member and cochair of the Women’s Committee of 100, a feminist mobilization against punitive welfare reform. I signed up with the Women’s Committee of 100 in March or April of 1995-roughly a year after completing a book on welfare policy history and around the same time as the book’s publication.2

I have always done both politics and scholarship, so directing my activism toward my field of professional expertise at first did not seem especially odd or problematic. However, I had just published a book critical of experts like me-a book which, among other things, faulted solipsistic women welfare innovators of the early twentieth century for building a welfare state harmful to women and to gender equality. The book was barely between covers, and I had already embarked on a path of policy advocacy that veered disturbingly close to the reformers I had criticized. There I was, consorting with a group of supereducated, do-good feminists, most of whom would never need a welfare check. And there we were, using our social and professional positions to gain entry into congressional offices, where we spoke against reforms that would affect not us but poor women. It seemed to me that maybe I hadn’t really internalized the lessons I had drawn from early-twentieth-century welfare history. Read more…

Categories: Feminisms, housework, race, welfare

Alisa Del Re, “Women and Welfare: Where Is Jocasta?”

November 8, 2010 2 comments

“Women and Welfare: Where Is Jocasta?”

Alisa Del Re

Chapter Seven, Radical Thought in Italy. Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno, eds.

In the Oedipus myth, Oedipus’s body and his desires significantly contribute to
the making of the individual’s free will, his autonomy as well as the relationship
between knowledge and will. Yet the other body at stake, that of his mother, Jocasta,
is hardly visible. We know nothing about her, neither her desires, nor her guilt,
nor whether she is self-aware.1 She is the Mother, unself-conscious and loving, and
nothing is said about her concerns, her aspirations, and her needs. She has no desire:
in Oedipus’s drama she endures and disappears. Not even Freud is interested in
Jocasta, and in his interpretation of the Oedipus myth he disingenuously disregards
the mother, who must have certainly suffered, as well as felt emotions and
desires. The relationship between mother and son is so asymmetrical, and the interpretation
of their desires so incommensurable, that in both the myth and contemporary
psychoanalytic interpretations of it, we are presented with a mutilated reading
of the situation. The Oedipus myth thus stands as the most blatant emblem of
the phallocentric bias of an interpretation that claims to be “scientific.” This type
of reading denies the question of sexual difference as it is inscribed in the story and
refuses to acknowledge Jocasta as a constitutive element of both reality and the formation
of thought.

As of today, things have not really changed. In a recent issue of
the French journal Sciences Humaines, a long series of articles proposed that the
human sciences are founded on a few constantly reformulated themes, questions,
and myths that continue to fuel research in the humanities.2 The articles do not
take into account, as a crucial fact, the question of sexual difference. None of the
pieces in the collection acknowledges that the object of analysis, the human being,
is gendered, that gender is instrumental for the human being’s social constitution,
or that gender concerns and informs the categories of race, class, and ethnicity. The
fact that sexual difference does not invest only one minority, to which fundamental
issues can be referred, but rather is per se a fundamental issue is never mentioned
at all. The question of sexual difference is thus emptied of meaning in the name of
a subject who, in the symbolic order of the researcher, is imagined as masculine
and in the name of a society whose power and organizational structures are founded
on this subject. To think the difference between man and woman as incommensurable
and asymmetrical implies an interpretation of reality and of the production
of discourse that acknowledges sexual difference as the foundation of social reality.
This difference constitutes a necessary value, capable of producing change; as such,
it represents a tool of analysis superior to the current paradigms of research. It is
worth stressing that we are not dealing with the mere task of “adding” women here
and there in our studies; such a move would only have the effect of assimilating a
new element within an unchanging symbolic order. Feminist discourse in the social
sciences has already offered suggestions and pointed to new directions for an analysis
that could confer meaning and human value upon the real.3 Read more…

Categories: Feminisms, welfare

Carlo Vercellone, “The Anomaly and Exemplariness of the Italian Welfare State”

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

“The Anomaly and Exemplariness of the Italian Welfare State”

Carlo Vercellone

Chapter Six, Radical Thought in Italy. Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno, eds.

In many respects, the experiences of the Italian Welfare State represent a particular
case. The comparatively late industrial development, the continuity and ferocity
of the workers’ struggles and social movements, the high levels of Mafia activity and
political corruption, and above all the radical division between the northern and
southern parts of the country all make Italy an anomaly with respect to the rest of the
developed capitalist countries. Precisely because of these anomolous conditions, however,
the Italian experience may paradoxically prove to be exemplary for the future
of all welfare systems. The need to manage an internal relationship between North
and South, for example, has now become a generalized condition for all capitalist
economies. Most important, the Italian experiences, especially those emanating from
the social movements of the 1970s, show the possibilities of alternative forms of
welfare in which systems of aid and socialization are separated from State control
and situated, instead in autonomous social networks. These alternative experiments
may show how systems of social welfare will survive the crisis of the Welfare State. Read more…

Categories: welfare

Contra Costa Times, “Parents anguish over child care cuts” [10/19/2010]

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

“Parents anguish over child care cuts”

Rick Radin, Contra Costa Times [10/19/2010]

[Petition to save Stage 3 childcare and jobs]

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s elimination of a child care subsidy, benefiting 8,000 children in the Bay Area and more than 57,000 statewide, has parents and providers upset and worried.

The loss of the subsidy will cost low-income parents hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars a month, depending on how many children they have who were covered by the subsidy.

The program, known as CalWORKs Stage 3, gives continuing child care subsidies to parents who have been out of the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program for job training and education for at least two years.

California will end Stage 3 payments Nov. 1, but child care providers haven’t been paid since July 1 because of the delay in settling the state budget. The state has promised that it will make up the back payments.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, announced a proposal this week that would go around the governor and restore funding until a new chief executive takes office in January.

Kamilla Wade, 27, holds her newborn son Kai, as she and her daughters Kalani, 6, and Kiara, 9, look out from their Antioch, Calif. home on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. Wade is receiving stage 3 childcare subsidies for her girls under the state CalWORKS program which has been eliminated beginning Nov. 1. Wade's two daughters together receive $1,200 a month in childcare under the program and her newborn son will require an additional $1,200 a month after she returns to work. (Sherry LaVars/Staff)

Schwarzenegger killed the program in one of several line-item vetoes after completing a budget deal with the Legislature earlier this month. Eliminating the child care subsidy is intended to save the state about $256 million a year.

About 1,700 children in Contra Costa County and 2,200 in Alameda County will lose their subsidies, according to the Contra Costa Childcare Council, the county’s largest child care network.

Elimination of the program will leave parents who rely on help to stay in the work force with few, if any, options, said council Director Kate Ertz-Berger.

It also may cause children to be yanked from providers with whom they are prospering to face an unknown future with lower-cost providers or even less-stable arrangements, Ertz-Berger said.

Alternatively, some parents may choose to quit their jobs to stay home with their children and apply for county welfare, she said.

“The bottom line is families will be devastated,” Ertz-Berger said. “Children will lose the ability to prepare for school.”

Elimination of the program was part of $962 million in cuts the governor made to restore a state “rainy day” fund to a $1.3 billion balance, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state Department of Finance.

About $1.7 billion in other categories of child care subsidies are still available, Palmer said.

“The reserve (fund) was unacceptably low,” he said. “Not to single out child care, but the reserve was not sufficient.” Read more…

Categories: child care, news, welfare

Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Mr. Welfare Man”

September 24, 2010 1 comment

Lyrics

(Keep away from me, Mr. Welfare)
They just keep on saying I’m a lazy women, don’t love my children and I’m mentally unfit
I must divorce him, cut all my ties with him cuz his ways they make me say
It’s a hard sacrifice (hard sacrifice), not having me a loving man
Society gave us no choice, tried to silence my voice pushing me on the welfare
I’m so tired, I’m so tired of trying to prove my equal rights
Though I’ve made some mistakes for goodness sakes, why should they help mess up my life?
Ooh, So keep away from me, Mr. Welfare. Did you hear me? Keep away from me, Mr. Welfare

Holding me back, using your tact, to make me live against my will, (hard sacrifice)
If that’s how it goes child, I don’t know, I can’t concede my life’s for real
It’s like a private eye for the FBI, just as envious as the Klu Klux Klan
Though I’m of pleasant fate it’s hard to relate, I’ll do the very best I can
Ooh, so keep away from me, ooh ooh Mr. Welfare
No no, did you hear me? (Keep away from me) don’t come near me, stay away, Mr. Welfare
They keep on saying I’m a lazy women, don’t love my children and I’m mentally unfit
I must divorce him, cut all my ties with him cuz his ways they make me say

Oooh, It’s a hard sacrifice. No no no no Lordy. Mr. Welfare, Stay away Mr. Welfare
I’m so tired, I’m so tired of trying to prove my equal rights
Though I’ve made some mistakes for goodness sakes, why should they help mess up my life?
Whoo whoo so keep away from me, Ooh ooh Mr. Welfare. Don’t you hear me? (Keep away from me)
Stay away Mr. Welfare.
They keep on saying I’m a lazy women, don’t love my children and I’m mentally unfit
I must just divorce the man, cut all my ties with him cuz his ways they make me say

Oooooooo, it’s a sacrifice (hard sacrifice), I gotta testify. (hard sacrifice)
Mr. Welfare, Mr. Welfare (hard sacrifice, hard sacrifice) I’m so tired, I’m so tired (hard sacrifice)
I’m so tired, of trying to prove my equal rights
Though I’ve made some mistakes for goodness sakes, why should they help mess up my life?
Whoo whooo whoo keep away from me, Mr. Welfare
Did you hear me? Keep away from me, Oooh Mr. Welfare
They keep saying I’m a lazy women, don’t love my children and I’m mentally unfit
I must divorce him, cut all my ties with him cuz his ways they make me say
It’s a hard sacrifice. I just want to testify. Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy
Um hmmm, keep away from me. Get on, get on, keep away from me, move on, Mr. Welfare
Keep away from me

Categories: welfare