This article examines the efforts of feminist unions to organize childcare workers in 1970s Vancouver, British Columbia, and highlights the entrenched opposition to union organizing by women considered to be “just babysitters.” These workers’ efforts challenged the “love-versus-money” divide that hampered women’s organizing efforts in the care sector. Vancouver childcare workers, working in alliance with parents, insisted on the public importance of their traditionally private work. In doing so, they connected their fight for better working conditions with the fight for universal childcare. They linked women’s struggles in the workplace to calls for the redistribution of society’s caregiving responsibilities away from families and the market and toward the state. Government intransigence prevented meaningful childcare policy reform, but workers’ efforts highlighted a key moment in Vancouver’s feminist and labor history when the fair treatment of care workers was linked to the liberation of all women.
The Labor Relations of Love: Workers, Childcare, and the State in 1970s Vancouver, British Columbia
LISA PASOLLI teaches in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Her research interests include gender and the politics of childcare in twentieth-century Canada. She is the author of several works on the history of childcare, including her award-winning book Working Mothers and the Child Care Dilemma: A History of British Columbia’s Social Policy (2015).
JULIA SMITH is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellow in the department of history at Rutgers University. Her research interests include Canadian history, gender and women’s studies, political economy, and labor studies. She has published articles on labor relations in the Canadian airline industry and feminist union organizing in the service industry. She is also a member of the Graphic History Collective and coeditor of Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggles (2016).
Lisa Pasolli, Julia Smith; The Labor Relations of Love: Workers, Childcare, and the State in 1970s Vancouver, British Columbia. Labor 1 December 2017; 14 (4): 39–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-4209352
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