Initiative on Caring Labor 






Caring Labor

The focus on Caring Labor was inspired by the recently endowed memorial fellowship named after long-time Bridges Center supporter, (Martha) Marty Duggan. After her death in 2004, her husband, Bob, wanted to create a memorial that would recognize her contribution to their family. Specifically, he wanted to acknowledge that her support, her caring labor, was critical to the success of his legal career. We are proud to implement this new graduate fellowship in Marty’s name, and to use it as a starting point to investigate the myriad of important political, economic, gender, and social issues that caring labor raises. You can find more information about the fellowship on the Grants and Scholarships page of this website

As part of this initiative, we held a conference at the UW, Seattle campus on May 20 & 21, 2005. Our keynote speaker was Nancy Folbre, economist from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The conference brought together researchers, practitioners and activists from fifteen universities, three countries, and ten community organizations and unions to give papers and presentations about social policy, labor activism, and historical and political research in this rich area. The conference resulted in a special issue of the journal Politics and Society, from which we got major support for the conference. That issue came out in March of 2006 and the articles in it can be read and downloaded by going to and finding the March 2006 issue in their on-line archive.

In the fall of 2006, the Bridges Center funded a new working group called "Race, Class, & Work-Life Balance: Exploring Intersectionality in the Domains of Work and Care," which will carry the focus on caring labor in to the next several years. You can learn more about their work at

Below you will find some information about the 2005 Caring Labor conference, Folbre's keynote address, and a list of the conference participants. Five of the papers that were given at the conference are also available by clicking on the highlighted links below.


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

Demanding Quality: Worker/Consumer Coalitions and "High Road" Strategies in the Care Sectorr" 

The care sector encompasses economic activities in both the home and the market that have a personal and emotional dimension, such as childrearing, child care, health care, elder care, and education. Economists and policy makers often mistakenly assume that this sector conforms to the textbook model of efficient markets. As the demand for care services increases relative to other services, their relative costs are going up. Efforts to lower costs through standardization, performance measurement, and automation are intensifying, often with the effect of lowering the quality of care services. Workers and "consumers" (in other words, dependents, patients, students, and clients) in care services share common interests and should try to develop stronger coalitions to protect quality. In this presentation I will emphasize the contributions that the "new institutionalist economics" can make to understanding these issues. I will also summarize important trends in childcare, education, and nursing and argue that organized labor could play an important role in promoting a new "care movement."

Dr. Folbre is a professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Family Time: The Social Organization of Care, and The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values.



            Some texts of papers will be available on-line soon. 


Friday, May 20th, 2005: Keynote Address

Nancy Folbre:  Demanding Quality: Worker/Consumer Coalitions and "High Road" Strategies   in the Care Sector”

Saturday, May 21st, 2005: Caring Labor Conference Panels

Plenary Panel: Responses to Keynote 

a)      Jacoby, UW Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies (facilitator)

b)     Shelly Lundberg, Economics, University of Washington

c)      Mignon Duffy, Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

d)     Aiko Schaefer, Director, Statewide Poverty  Action Network

Panel 1: Child Care Labor Organizing 

a)    Mary Tuominen, Women’s Studies and Sociology/Anthropology, Denison University (facilitator)

b)    Brooke Lather, SEIU 925 staff, Home Provider Campaign

c)    Dorothy Gibson, Project Staff, Child Care Workforce Alliance of Washington/AFT

d)    Tozzi, Child Care Center Teacher and member of Seattle Worthy Wages

e)    Joyce Reason, family childcare provider

Panel 2: How Caregivers Make Sense of Their Work (Mary Gates Hall Room 284)

a)     Jennifer Romich, UW Social Work (facilitator)

b)     Lisa Dodson, Boston College & Rebekah Zincavage Brandeis University, “Fictive Kinship and Carework in Long-term Care Facilities”

c)     Robin L. Stadnyk & Brenda Beagan, Dalhousie University,  “Caregiver’s Experience of Supportive Services: Policy Assumptions and Barriers”

d)     Helga Kristin Hallgrimsdottir, Victoria University, “Care Workers in the Canadian Sex Industry: Many Sanction, Few Rights”

e)      Haley-Lock, “A Calling for Me, a Career for You: Paradoxes of Success in Community-based Human Services Employment” 

Panel 3: The State of Care: How Policies Affect Caring Labor 

a)   Ali Wagner Boyd, “Money, Mommies, and Myths: Capitalism, Domesticity, and the Role of Law” 

b)   Eileen Boris, UC Santa Barbara & Jennifer Klein, Yale University, “A Genealogy of Home Health Care: Law, Social Policy, and the Valuing of Women’s Labor"  (Abstract only available) 

c)   Claire Frew (Queen Mary, University of London) –  “Making ‘Choices’ in Home Care: What Will an Increased ‘Choice” Mean for Employment and Service Provision?”

d)   Debbie Ward, UW School of Nursing – (facilitator)

e)   Kim England, UW “Geographies of the Body, Home, and Work: Home Health Care Workers in Ontario”

Panel 4: Child Care Politics and Policies 

a)   Alesha Durfee & Marcia Meyers, UW , “The Cost of Caring: The Public and Private Share of Child Care Expenses”

b)   John R. Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute – (discussant)

c)   Mary Tuominen, Denison University - (facilitator)

f)    Mike  Kasprzak, Executive Director, Interlake Child Care and Learning Cente, and     founding President of the Association of Child Care Employers – (discussant)

g)   Peggie R. Smith, University of Iowa – (discussant)

f)   Yasmeen Abu-Laban, “(Not caring for) Caring Labor in Canada: Alberta and Quebec Compared”

Panel 5: Health Care Unionism 

a)   Patrice Mareschal, Rutgers University, “Agitation and Control: A Tactical Analysis of the Campaign Against New Jersey’s Quality Home Care Act”

b)   Steve Lopez, Ohio State University, "Human Resource Management and Worker Power: Why Even Good Nursing Homes Need a Union"

c)   Randall Downey, SEIU 1107 – (discussant)

d)  Sarah  Laslett, UW, (facilitator)

Panel 6: Immigrant Women as Caregivers 

a)    Candace Howes, Connecticut College,  “Transnational Homecare Givers: Breaking the Domestic Mould”

b)    Francesca Degiuli, U.C. Santa Barbara, “Elder Carework in Italy : A Growing Occupation for Immigrant Women”

c)    Maria Fannin, UW, “Rationalizing Reproduction: Health Care Efficiency and Midwifery Labor in Contemporary France

d)   Eileen Boris, U.C. Santa Barbara (facilitator)

Co-sponsored by: 

Politics and Society, The Institute on Poverty and Inequality, the Institute on Inequality and Social Structure/UW, The Center for Research on Families, Women's Studies/UW, Canadian Studies/UW Jackson School, and Sociology/UW. We will also have participants from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 & 1199NW, the American Federation of Teachers, the Economic Opportunity Institute, and the Poverty Action Network.

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Last updated: June 14, 2005.