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Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 361–381 | Cite as

Constructing Union Motherhood: Gender and Social Reproduction in the Los Angeles “Justice for Janitors” Movement

  • Cynthia J. CranfordEmail author
Special Issue: Constructing Workers

Abstract

The literature recognizes the need for unions to change their strategies in order to organize women but whether these strategies reinforce or undermine gender inequality is insufficiently examined. An ethnography of the Los Angeles Justice for Janitors movement demonstrates how women can mitigate unequal gender relations tied to social reproduction through unions. Secondary documents, participant observation and in-depth interviews with Latina/o immigrant janitors and with union staff show how women janitors constructed a union motherhood that undermined the invisibility and devaluation of caregiving generally performed by women. As they moved into union leadership, women worker leaders made caregiving more visible in union practice and recognized its value in the way they framed a broader unionism for the family. Attention to how unions contend with social reproduction extends our understanding of the consequences of union renewal for gender inequality.

Keywords

Gender Social reproduction Labor movement Unions Latina/o immigrants 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank, Rob Wilton, Maria Schmeeckle, Anna Korteweg, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, John Krinsky and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on previous versions of these papers. I also thank the janitors and union staff who participated in this study. All interpretations are my own.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

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