At the intersection of the respective research interests of two young researchers at Trent is an award-winning collaboration.
Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies researchers Julia Smith and Dr. Lisa Pasolli were recently awarded the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies (CAWLS) New Voices in Labour Studies English Language Prize for their paper examining the efforts of a feminist union to organize child care workers in Vancouver in the 1970s.
The paper focuses on the Service, Office, and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada (SORWUC) – an independent feminist union that organized workers in a variety of industries. Both researchers, Dr. Pasolli, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow, and Ms. Smith, a PhD candidate in the Frost Centre, had read about the SORWUC child care workers in the archives, but neither had thought to examine it further until they joined forces at Trent.
"This project came to be because of our overlapping research interests," says Ms. Smith. "Lisa studies the history of Canadian childcare policy, and I study feminism and unions."
In the paper, titled “Workers, Social, Services, and the State: Child-Care Worker Organizing in 1970s Vancouver, British Columbia,” the researchers analyze a 1970s union drive and the surrounding child care politics. They explained that these workers viewed unionization as a crucial tool to improve their wages and working conditions. They also considered their struggles as part of a much larger effort to obtain a publicly-funded universal child care program.
"With this work, we are drawing attention to an aspect of women’s work – the work of caring for children – that is not often studied through a historical lens," says Dr. Pasolli, also the author of the recently published book Working Mothers and the Child Care Dilemma: A History of British Columbia’s Social Policy. "But we also argue that this historical research has implications for contemporary child care challenges. As social services, such as child care, are increasingly privatized and subject to market forces, it is crucial to understand how workers and their allies resisted these forces in the past."
Dr. Pasolli and Ms. Smith presented their paper and received their award at the CAWLS annual conference in Ottawa earlier this month.