The Sex of Class: Women Transforming American Labor / Edition 1

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Women now comprise the majority of the working class. Yet this fundamental transformation has gone largely unnoticed. This book is about how the sex of workers matters in understanding the jobs they do, the problems they face at work, and the new labor movements they are creating in the United States and globally. In The Sex of Class, twenty prominent scholars, labor leaders, and policy analysts look at the implication of this "sexual revolution" for labor policy and practice.

The Sex of Class introduces readers to some of the most vibrant and forward-thinking social movements of our era: the clerical worker protests of the 1970s; the emergence of gay rights on the auto shop floor; the upsurge of union organizing in service jobs; worker centers and community unions of immigrant women; successful campaigns for paid family leave and work redesign; and innovative labor NGOs, cross-border alliances, and global labor federations.

Revealing the animating ideas and the innovative strategies put into practice by the female leaders of the twenty-first-century social justice movement, the contributors to this book offer new ideas for how government can help reduce class and sex inequalities. They assess the status of women and sexual minorities within the traditional labor movement and they provide inspiring case studies of how women workers and their allies are inventing new forms of worker representation and power.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Cobble has edited an insightful volume that extends our understanding of how American unions are responding to the increased presence of women in the workforce. Several chapters discuss how to implement flexible grievance and work systems to better serve women's needs to balance home demands with work and how to organize groups that were not thought of as ripe for organization, including females immigrant workers, informal economy workers, and home care workers. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Once again, Dorothy Sue Cobble is right on target. In The Sex of Class, she's brought together a remarkable group of essays that spell out why class inequalities are growing larger and how the working class is becoming more female than ever. At the same time, this collection thoughtfully describes the place in the union movement for millions of women who teach our kids, clean our offices, and nurse us back to health. The Sex of Class is indispensable. Everyone who's part of the struggle for working women should read it."—Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice-President, AFL-CIO

"Anyone interested in advancing either our understanding or our practice on class, gender, and the labor movement needs to read this collection, which includes some of the most creative thinking available on these issues. This book is central if scholars are to understand what is happening to the U.S. class structure, and if either the labor movement or the women's movement is to regain momentum and power."—Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements

"The Sex of Class, edited by Dorothy Sue Cobble and featuring articles by twenty distinguished authors with varying experiences and points of view, breaks new ground in advancing our understanding of the important role of women in labor and social justice organizations. This highly readable book is essential reading not only for students in labor studies, women's studies, sociology and political science classes but also for all who are concerned with the future of the American labor movement."—Lois Gray, Jean McKelvey-Alice Grant Professor of Labor-Management Relations Emeritus, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University

"This book is an important addition to the literature on women and trade unions. Dorothy Sue Cobble frames the diverse chapters in terms of 'the sex of class' and points out that work is being feminized in several dimensions."—Margaret Hallock, Director, Wayne Morse Center, University of Oregon

"A must-read for anyone interested in the future of the union movement."—Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director, Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings

"The Sex of Class is such an exciting book. The narrative is clear and refreshing, tackling tough issues of gender and class inequality in an accessible and powerful way. Many of the chapters begin with compelling personal stories that draw the reader into the material. And this book is about more than sex and class, as it also targets the important racial and ethnic dynamics of the labor movement today."—Rosemary Batt, Cornell University, coauthor of The New American Workplace

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489433
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothy Sue Cobble is Professor of Labor Studies, History, and Women's/Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America and Dishing it Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century, and the editor of Women and Unions, Forging a Partnership, also from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

by Dorothy Sue Cobble

Part I. Women's Inequalities and Public Policy

1. Increasing Class Disparities among Women and the Politics of Gender Equity
by Leslie McCall

2. More than Raising the Floor: The Persistence of Gender Inequalities in the Low-Wage Labor Market
by Vicky Lovell, Heidi Hartmann, and Misha Werschkul

Part II. Unions and Sexual Politics

3. Two Worlds of Unionism: Women and the New Labor Movement
by Ruth Milkman

4. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Challenge to American Labor
by Gerald Hunt and Monica Bielski Boris

5. Sex Discrimination as Collective Harm
by Marion Crain

Part III. Labor’s Work and Family Agenda

6. Changing Work, Changing People: A Conversation with Union Organizers at Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center
by Lydia Savage

7. Unions Fight for Work and Family Policies—Not for Women Only
by Netsy Firestein and Nicola Dones

Part IV. Organizing Women’s Work

8. Working Women’s Insurgent Consciousness
by Karen Nussbaum

9. "We Were the Invisible Workforce": Unionizing Home Care
by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein

10. Expanding Labor’s Vision: The Challenges of Workfare and Welfare Organizing
by Vanessa Tait

11. Worker Centers and Immigrant Women
by Janice Fine

Part V. Local–Global Connections

12. Female Immigrant Workers and the Law: Limits and Opportunities
by Maria L. Ontiveros

13. Women Crossing Borders to Organize
Katie Quan

14. Representing Informal Economy Workers: Emerging Global Strategies and Their Lessons for North American Unions
by Leah F. Vosko

About the Contributors

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