Monday, April 30, 2012

Disability Law Book Club: Boris & Klein on Home Health Workers

I just had the opportunity to read Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein's great new book, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State.  The book is a really outstanding labor history of the home "care" worker sector, broadly construed (including personal assistance for people with disabilities) from the early 20th Century to now.  It does a great job of connecting the development of this labor sector with cycles of welfare reform and welfare rights agitation, successive waves of different types of deinstitutionalization (from chronic care hospitals in the middle of the 20th Century, from nursing homes later), and the rise of various identity-based social movements.  This is one of the few treatments of the personal-assistant work sector in which the disability rights/independent living movement is taken seriously as an important actor.  Although I am sympathetic to the book's critiques of the neoliberal implications of some strands of disability rights thinking on this topic (critiques that resonate with an article I wrote a number of years ago), I do think Boris and Klein at times fail to appreciate the important interests on the disability rights side of the ledger here and why they might legitimately be in conflict with the interests of personal attendants.  I am working on a piece, which probably won't see daylight for many months, that provides my take on these issues in more depth.  But I would urge you to read Boris and Klein's book.  Even though I have my disagreements, it's a very sophisticated take on a supremely important set of issues for people with disabilities and the future of the labor movement.

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