Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

The community dimensions of union renewal: Racialized and caring relations in personal support services

Document type Article
Author Cranford, Cynthia
Author Birdsell Bauer, Louise
Journal Work, Employment and Society
Volume 31
Date 2017 04
ISSN 0950-0170, 1469-8722
Pages 302-318


Union renewal research calls for moving beyond broad terms, like community unionism, to specify how social relations of work shape renewal for different workers, sectors and contexts. Analysis of interviews with union officials and union members in publicly funded, in-home personal support reveal two community dimensions: both caring and racialized relations between workers and service recipients. Scholarship on care workers emphasizes empathy and coalition with service recipients as a key aspect of union renewal, yet says little about racialized tensions. Studies of domestic workers emphasize organizing in response to racialization, but provide little insight into caring social relations at work. This article develops arguments that both positive and negative worker–recipient relations shape union organizing and representation in the service sector by specifying the ways in which racialization contributes to this dynamic. It suggests that anti-racist organizing at work, alongside coalition building and collective bargaining, are important renewal strategies for this sector.