The Four-Day Work Week: But What About Ms. Coke, Ms. Upton, and Ms. Blankenship?

Lung, Shirley
May 2010
Connecticut Law Review;May2010, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p1119
The work/family conflicts of poor and low-income women remain invisible in mainstream discussions about reform of working hours. "Family-friendly" reforms such as compressed work weeks, part-time jobs, reduced hours, and other alternative work schedules largely address the interests of professional women who are in a position to trade income for time. This Article suggests ways of expanding work/family discussions to address the needs of poor and low-income women who are immigrants, single parents, and involuntary part-time workers who labor in low-wage industries such as home care, clerical services, and office cleaning. The Article begins by examining gaps in the current discourse that reinforce racial and class hierarchies among women and families. It then explores the role of race, class, and citizenship in rethinking how to broaden the work/family discourse through a consideration of three cases brought by women to challenge the length or conditions of their working hours. This Article argues that to ensure that work/family policies benefit poor and low-income women, it is necessary to understand how social welfare policies, the structure of low-wage work, and immigration policies intersect to deprive low-income women of the right to make meaningful choices about paid work, unpaid work, and caregiving. The last section of the Article emphasizes the need for the work/family discourse to focus on a right of control of time as a means of challenging the unilateral control of working hours that our legal regime vests in employers. In particular, worker control of time provides a unifying framework for the common struggles that all women face as economic providers and caregivers.


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