Wages for housework

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In 1972 Selma James founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign in Padua, Italy. The Campaign discussed how housework is the very base of all industrial work and childcare ensures the continuation of the species, and that these both unavoidable and thankless tasks and should be compensated.[1] The demands for the Wages for Housework formally called for economic compensation for domestic work but also used these demands to more generally call attention to the affective labors of women and the reliance of capitalist economies on exploitative labor practices against women. [2]

The International Wages for Housework Campaign grew out of the International Feminist Collective in Italy, which included founding members; Selma James, Brigitte Galtier, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, and Silvia Federici.[3] The group published a Marxist autonomist journal, Matériaux pour l’intervention. Dalla Costa, one of the members of the group in Padua came from the intellectual movement, operaismo which developed around factory strikes in Northern Italy in the 1970s. The Wages for Housework Campaign took the idea from operaismo of wage as central to the struggle for worker control and rights of industry. Operaismo encouraged workers to act on their direct interests when it comes to demanding compensation for their labor and exploitation in the factory.

In 1973, Federici helped start Wages for Housework groups in the US and in 1975, the Wages for Housework opened an office in Brooklyn, New York at 288 B. 8th St. The New York Group was called the "Wages for Housework Committee." In 1975 Federici published Wages Against Housework, the book most commonly associated with the movement.[4]

The Campaign included aspects of student protest, feminism, civil rights, community workshops, and direct action protest and several publications grew out of its ideas which expanded on the claims of the original group and of more general topics in labor and exploitation. In Italy, Quaderni rossi, published by Raniero Panzieri, and Mario Tronti dealt with a variety of topics relating to the class struggle.

Feminist arguments were also key in the Wages for Housework movement and its members wrote widely on topics in Affective labor. Some of the demands of the Wages for Housework groups also included the women's right to work outside of the home, unemployment benefits for all women, and equal pay.

Social Wage Campaigns[edit]

Wages for Housework is part of more general social wage campaigns in the 1970s interested in late capitalism. These campaigns used analysis of Fordist compromises during the twentieth century to argue that family wages or social security payments had amounted to wages paid for housework in the advanced capitalist West.[5][6] A number of other autonomous organizations interested in compensation for domestic labor were formed in 1975: Black Women for Wages for Housework, Wages Due Lesbians, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and some years later WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities).

Recent History[edit]

In recent years, the demands of the Wages for Housework Campaign have been applied to many more recent debates in the gendered aspects of labor including, reproductive rights, sex work, and demands for women in leadership roles in business. [7]

Silvia Federici and several others from the early campaign have continued to publish books and articles related to the demands of Wages for Housework including Fererici's 2012 book, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle.

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