Do we care? - Page 3

Local activists push for better recognition for caregiving professions

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Lil Milagro Martinez (left) wants all domestic workers to be treated with the same respect she afford to the nanny of her son.
PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN

Domestic Workers Coalition campaign coordinator Katie Joaquin noted that the campaign is about triggering a cultural shift as much as it's about winning legal protections, as important as they may be. "Once this bill passes and we have basic protections doesn't mean the abuses will stop," she said, noting that this is really about valuing care work.

"It's bringing people together around the care we need," Joaquin said. "These are conversations that are breaking new ground. The bill is really something that gets the ball rolling."

Once some household work gets recognized, it's not a big step toward a conversation about valuing all kinds of caring work and including that in our measures of economic progress.

"We definitely support the idea of valuing all care work, both paid and unpaid," Feris said. "We all have something to gain by valuing each other."

 

THE REAL WEALTH OF NATIONS

Author and researcher Riane Eisler has been a leading thinker and advocate for creating a more caring economy for decades, work that resulted in her seminal 1988 book The Chalice and the Blade, which sold half a million copies and was lauded as a groundbreaking analysis of the gender roles in ancient and modern history. She followed that with The Real Wealth of Nations in 2007, and the creation of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and the Caring Economy Campaign.

Eisler takes issue with what most people call "the economy," a wasteful and incomplete system that doesn't actually economize in connecting what we have to what we need. She persuasively argues that it makes sense in both human and fiscal terms to value caring and caregiving, for one another and the natural world, providing myriad examples of countries, cultures, and companies that have benefited from that approach.

"In a way, the concepts are very simple. What could be more simple than saying the real wealth of nations isn't financial? It consists of the contributions of people and nature," Eisler told us by phone from her home in Monterey.

On March 20, Eisler gave a Congressional Briefing (attended by members and staffers in the Rayburn House Office Building) entitled "The Economic Return From Investing in Care Work & Early Childhood Education," presenting a report on the issue that CPS and the Urban Institute released in December: "National Indicators and Social Wealth."

"I think this is extremely timely," Eisler told us, noting that the Republican Party's currently aggressive fiscal conservatism must be countered with evidence that meeting people's real needs is better economic policy than simply catering to Wall Street's interests.

Her address to Congress followed ones that Eisler has given to the United Nations General Assembly and other important civic organizations around the world, and it was followed the next day by an address she gave to the State Department entitled: "What's Good for Women is Good for World: Foundations of a Caring Economy."

While Eisler said "there are people who are very excited about it," she admits that her ideas have made little progress with the public even as the global economy increasingly displays many of the shortcomings she's long warned against. "This is still very much on the margins."

But that could be changing, particularly given the political organizing work that has been done in recent years around the rights of domestic workers and immigrants and on behalf of the interests of children and the poor, some of it drawing on the work of liberal economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

"The Gross Domestic Product is a very poor measure of economic health," she told us, noting that it perversely counts excessive healthcare spending, rapid resource depletion, and the cleanups of major oil spills as positive economic activity.