Housing policy becomes a labor issue when housing costs consume large portions of hard-won wage increases. The extent and the depth of today's housing crisis make this issue more pressing than at any time since the 1930s when labor's participation was critical to the passage of the U.S. Housing Act. Without the benefit of housing-subsidy programs, low-income people often pay more than half their incomes on housing. In this article, we focus on the effect of the housing crisis on members in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 434B who represent over 100,000 homecare workers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Living in overcrowded and substandard housing, workers face abusive landlords, suffer feelings of powerless- ness, and endure compromised self-worth and dignity. Homecare workers use coping strategies in order to live with the problems created by the high costs of housing and poor conditions. Local unions can intervene in ways that tie housing to traditional campaigns and break new ground in the housing arena. Without labor's involvement, the ad hoc housing policy in the United States will continue to burden workers in low-wage occupations.
Labor Studies Journal – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2005