ILR Press

Home Care Workers and Secure Work

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We asked author Cynthia J. Cranford three questions about her book, Home Care Fault Lines: Understanding Tensions and Creating Alliances, and her research on tensions between home care workers and the elderly and disabled.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

I approached this study with a sensitivity to the tensions that could arise between home care workers and elderly and disabled people during daily routines. This critical perspective was itself critiqued when an interviewee I call Gord cautioned: “You’re going through scenarios that I might deal with only once a year. It would be like you watching CSI all the time and thinking there are a lot of extreme crimes in Las Vegas.” Gord’s comment underlined the importance of documenting the varying balance between conflict and camaraderie in my comparative analysis of different home care regimes.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

As a gender, migration, and labor scholar, I knew the case of home care would demand multiple perspectives to understand the seeming conflict between unions pushing for job security and disability movements seeking flexible services. What I didn’t know was that I would need to mesh insights from aging, health, and disability studies with those in my conceptual wheelhouse to analyze properly this complex relational encounter. Ultimately, this synthesis of ideas deepens our understanding of intersecting inequalities.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Sociology?

I would like to see a deepening of what Michael Burawoy calls public sociology. This requires more institutional commitment to recognize and value the long-term, labor-intensive work of building relationships with various publics. It also requires us to teach public sociology skills to our students. I was fortunate that a unique Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada partnership grant funded some of the research for this book. This recognition and funding supported not only collaborations with colleagues and students but also engagement with community organizations that enriched the book theoretically, empirically and politically.

Cynthia Cranford is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She is the co-author of Self-employed Workers Organize. Follow her on Twitter @Cranford1971.

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