Domestic Workers of the World Unite!

A Global Movement for Dignity and Human Rights

320 pages

18 figures and 1 table

July, 2017

ISBN: 9781479877935



Add to Cart Available: 6/30/2017

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Jennifer N. Fish is a sociologist and Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University. She has worked with domestic labor movements for over fifteen years, as a researcher, ally, and policy activist. Her publications include Domestic Democracy: At Home in South Africa and Women's Activism in South Africa: Working Across Divides.

All books by Jennifer N. Fish

From grassroots to global activism, the untold story of the world's first domestic workers' movement.

Domestic workers exist on the margins of the world labor market. Maids, nannies, housekeepers, au pairs, and other care workers are most often ‘off the books,’ working for long hours and low pay.   They are not afforded legal protections or benefits such as union membership, health care, vacation days, and retirement plans. Many women who perform these jobs are migrants, and are oftentimes dependent upon their employers for room and board as well as their immigration status, creating an extremely vulnerable category of workers in the growing informal global economy.  

Drawing on over a decade’s worth of research, plus interviews with a number of key movement leaders and domestic workers, Jennifer N. Fish presents the compelling stories of the pioneering women who, while struggling to fight for rights in their own countries, mobilized transnationally to enact change. The book takes us to Geneva, where domestic workers organized, negotiated, and successfully received the first-ever granting of international standards for care work protections by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization. This landmark victory not only legitimizes the importance of these household laborers’ demands for respect and recognition, but also signals the need to consider human rights as a central component of workers’ rights.   

Domestic Workers of the World Unite! chronicles how a group with so few resources could organize and act within the world’s most powerful international structures and give voice to the wider global plight of migrants, women, and informal workers. For anyone with a stake in international human and workers’ rights, this is a critical and inspiring model of civil society organizing. 


  • “A beautifully written ethnography chronicling the international struggle for domestic workers! Jennifer Fish brings the unionization alive by weaving workers and organizers’ stories into the political, economic and legal background that frames the journey of these women who organize locally, nationally and internationally. This is a must read for scholars and activists concerned about the rights of precarious women workers and the strategies for organizing vulnerable workers.”

    —Mary Romero, author of The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

  • “Jennifer Fish's book is a rare account of the development of a global social movement, from growing deep local roots and developing the leadership of the least visible among us, to shaping international labor standards. This is a book for anyone looking to understand global movement building in the 21st Century, or for anyone simply looking to feel inspired by our human capacity to change the world.”

    —Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance