No Housework Day: A day of action

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No Housework Day: A day of action

by Admin on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 3:39pm

Woman Holding Pile Of LaundryOn April 7, "No Housework Day, the Clayman Institute hosted a panel discussion on the proposed benefit to support housework based on research by Clayman Institute Director, Professor Londa Schiebinger. The panel was moderated by Schiebinger and featured Hilary Abell, Executive Director of WAGES Cooperative, Dr. Terry Desser, Director of the Residency Program, Stanford Medical School, and Diane Peck, Vice President for Human Resources at Stanford University.  Attending were faculty, administrators, professional women, graduate students, professional housecleaners, and one husband. Many interesting points were raised, including: Professionalizing housecleaning: Many think about this benefit from the perspective of the recipient. However, it was eye-opening to examine the benefit from the perspective of the professional housecleaner.

  • Hilary Abell, Executive Director of WAGES Cooperative, said that household income goes up +50% when a woman joins a cooperative cleaning service. She has access to benefits herself, including vacation and sick day coverage, and consistent income. Their revenues went up +5% last year despite the down economy
  • Some people question whether the proposal continues to reinforce housework a female concern. The answer was that professionalizing housecleaning offers women a living wage for work they are already doing

A desire for community: participants felt as though they must deal with the issues of household maintenance on their own. When the question is brought into a public forum, women brainstormed on solutions and communities they could build. For example:

  • A housecleaning/service provider faire at companies with vetted providers so employees, especially those who are new to the area, could find quality support
  • A rating system – "Yelp" for services – would help vette and recommend services

Creating a new tax-protected benefit: Tax protection would offer an avenue for broader adoption of the benefit. Currently we can pay for medical bills and dependent care with pre-tax dollar thanks to tax codes passed by Congress. In order for housework to have the same status, Congress would be required to pass similar rules for this benefit. Other ideas were presented by the group for forwarding this idea in advance of presenting to Congress, including:

  • Meet with benefit-friendly, innovative companies and recommend that they adopt this benefit for their employees as trailblazers
  • Offer alternative services around housework for employees, similar to the way companies contract with delivery dry-cleaning services

The discussion ended with ideas for action. One person is going to build a FaceBook group: 5 Million for Housework Benefits! Another recommended an economic analysis be calculated: the benefit of increased income tax by professionalizing housework weighed against the cost of a tax break for a housework benefit – and work with Congress to get this idea on the national map. The Clayman Institute has a FaceBook App in beta now so people can take housework out of the individual sphere and bring it into the national debate.What we learned today was the housework can benefit many, when it is designed to do so.