Women's Paid and Unpaid Labor: The Work Transfer in Health Care and Retailing

Women's Paid and Unpaid Labor: The Work Transfer in Health Care and Retailing

Women's Paid and Unpaid Labor: The Work Transfer in Health Care and Retailing

Women's Paid and Unpaid Labor: The Work Transfer in Health Care and Retailing

Synopsis

Providing an original look at twentieth-century service occupations, Nona Y. Glazer offers an innovative interpretation of how managers reduce labor costs by shifting labor for paid women workers to women as family members. She critically examines the past and present practices of retailing and health service occupations as a way to better understand the deskilling, speed-ups, and job consolidation of nurses, salesclerks, and cashiers.Glazer calls the shifting of tasks from paid to unpaid labor the "work transfer," one of the many mechanisms that managers used to change the labor process in service jobs. She maintains that these shifts in labor costs increase profit margins in a capitalistic economy that demands such increases. Drawing on social history, economics, interviews with health service workers, union newsletter accounts, and advertisements in mass market magazines and retail trade journals, this book affords new insights into how the hidden work of women is structured by changes in paid labor. Author note: Nona Y. Glazer is Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Portland State University and the editor of Woman in a Man-Made World and New Family/Old Family.

Excerpt

This book explores the transformation of work from paid to unpaid. It looks at how the major reorganization of women's paid work results in job losses or vastly different paid jobs and increases in women's unpaid domestic labor. I call the shift of tasks from a paid worker to an unpaid family member or friend the work transfer, and I consider it to be one among many mechanisms that managers use to change the labor process in service jobs. My interest in the transfer of work from paid to unpaid comes from puzzling over the persistence of women's unpaid domestic labor in the United States, despite the industrialization or commercialization of much household production. The work transfer seems one obvious source of the increase in unpaid domestic labor. Although it is not the only mechanism that managers use to change the labor process, the work transfer is important to feminist scholarship and activism because it mostly affects the labor of women, in harmful as well as beneficial ways. The work transfer also demonstrates the inaccuracy of considering the social world as divided between the public sphere of labor and the private sphere of love. These are my major intellectual concerns.

But the personal is political too. In the mid-1970s, when I began to think about women's domestic labor, my income dropped sharply after divorce. This economic consequence astonished me as much as the affluence of marriage, for though somewhat younger than the generation inElder's Children of the Depression, I remembered "relief' and charitysupplied goods and services and had my Social Security card and first job at age twelve. The cycle of contrasts in what services I could afford during and after marriage helped me to see how much labor I did that . . .

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