One of two women who clean my apartment at the retirement center stopped me in the hall to apologize for failing to wipe the upper corners of my living room windows. I’m not surprised at her failure. She stands about 4’ 10. Her partner, near the same height, couldn’t help either. Besides, the latter has a heart condition, which leaves me feeling guilty that she does chores for me at all. I’ve become one of those people who cleans before the help arrives.
The valuable work these two women do gets little respect. In the lawsuit, Harris vs. Quinn, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who’s probably never seen a toilet brush, called people who perform home care “partial” employees –“ a separate category of workers altogether.” (“The New Working Class, by Sarah Jaffe, The New Republic, March 2018, pg. 9) Like many of us, he clings to the notion the working class is composed of white males in hard hats. That’s not the reality. Those industrial workers represent a mere 11% of today’s employees. The bulk is in retail, hotel housekeeping and home care. The latter is the fastest growing industry in the country, and their numbers are reinvigorating the Labor Movement. (Ibid, pg. 9)
While the middle class dwindles, the working class burgeons with a new mix of low-paid workers. It includes thousands upon thousands of credentialed as well as non-credentialed people. A growing number of them have Ph.Ds. These are adjunct professors (Click) who teach for years without hope of tenure, and who earn less than $20,000 a year. (Ibid, pg. 10.) That salary puts them squarely in the working class.
The changed topography, as well as its growth, has altered the direction of the working class. As well as seeking better salaries, many are community activist. You will find them at rallies similar to Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.
Without question, the new demographic is a force to be reckoned with. The Republican and Democrat parties will have to react. The puzzle is, which way will they run?