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Languages of Affection and Rationality: Household Workers' Strategies before the Tribunal of Domestic Work, Buenos Aires, 1956–2013*

  • Inés Pérez (a1) and Santiago Canevaro (a2)
Abstract

This article analyzes household workers’ discursive strategies before the Tribunal of Domestic Work (TDW) between 1956 and 2013. The TDW is an institution created in 1956 to arbitrate labor relations within domestic service in Buenos Aires. This article shows that workers’ strategies use alternatively a language of rationality and labor relations on the one hand, and of affection and family-like bonds on the other. The overlap of languages of rationality and affection persisted during the entire period under analysis. However, it did not have the same significance over time. Specific articulations of affect or rationality legitimated workers’ rights at different moments in relation to particular labor relations. Based on a close reading of more than 800 case records, the article shows that, despite the particularities of any individual cases, patterns of argument emerged, connected to changes in the world of labor and transformations in the dynamics of domestic service.

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Following the unions’ usual terminology, we use the term “household worker” to refer to the workers.

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NOTES

1. Tizziani, Ania, “El Estatuto del Servicio Doméstico y sus antecedentes: debates en torno a la regulación del trabajo doméstico remunerado en la Argentina,” Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos (2013): 115 . Some labor rights were previously granted to household workers, such as the annual complementary salary (end of year bonus).

2. Viviana Zelizer, La negociación de la intimidad (Buenos Aires, 2009); de Oliveira, Luis Cardoso, “Honor, dignidad y reciprocidad,” Cuadernos de Antropología Social 20 (2004): 2539 .

3. Donna Goldstein, Laughter Out of Place. Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2003).

4. Juan Suriano, “El largo camino a la ciudadanía social,” in Población y bienestar en la Argentina del primero al segundo Centenario. Una Historia Social del siglo XX, ed. Susana Torrado (Buenos Aires, 2007), 69–96; Andrés Stagnaro, “Los Tribunales del Trabajo como escenario del conflicto entre el capital y el trabajo. 1948–1960” (Ph.D. diss., Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2012).

5. Pérez, Inés, “Un ‘régimen especial’ para el servicio doméstico. Tensiones entre lo laboral y lo familiar en la regulación del servicio doméstico en la Argentina, 1926–1956,” Cuadernos del IDES 30 (forthcoming).

6. Oscar Grinberg, “El servicio doméstico en el derecho argentino” (Ph.D. diss., Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1951).

7. Pérez, Inés and Garazi, Débora, “Mucamas y domésticas. Trabajo femenino, justicia y desigualdad (Mar del Plata, Argentina, 1956–1974),” Cadernos Pagú 42 (2014): 313–40.

8. Allemandi, Cecilia, “El servicio doméstico en el marco de las transformaciones de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1869–1914,” Diálogos 16 (2012): 385415 .

9. Tizziani, “El Estatuto.”

10. Tizziani, “El Estatuto.”

11. Surveys of employment and unemployment, Buenos Aires, July 1963 and April 1964, National Institute of Census and Statistics, Buenos Aires, 1964.

12. María Valenzuela and Claudia Mora, Trabajo doméstico: un largo camino hacia el trabajo decente (Santiago, 2009).

13. Mónica Gogna, “Empleadas domésticas en Buenos Aires.” In Muchacha, cachifa, criada, empleada, empregadinha, sirvienta y…más nada, ed. Elsa Chaney and Mary García Castro (Venezuela, 1993), 81–98.

14. Lautier has pointed out the difficulty of categorizing domestic service as informal work. See Lautier, Bruno, “Las empleadas domésticas latinoamericanas y la sociología del trabajo: algunas observaciones acerca del caso brasileño,” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 65 (2003): 789814 .

15. 2001 National Population and Housing Census, National Institute of Census and Statistics.

16. 2004 Permanent Household Survey, National Institute of Census and Statistics.

17. Marcela Cerrutti, “Trabajo, organización familiar y relaciones de género en Buenos Aires,” in Familia, trabajo y género. Un mundo de nuevas relaciones, ed. Catalina Wainerman (Buenos Aires, 2003), 19–54.

18. Catalina Wainerman, “Mujeres que trabajan. Hechos e ideas,” in Población y bienestar en la Argentina del primero al segundo Centenario. Una historia social del siglo XX, ed. Susana Torrado (Buenos Aires, 2007), 325–52.

19. Ministerio de trabajo, Diagnóstico sobre la Situación Laboral de las Mujeres. Segundo Trimestre de 2005 (Buenos Aires, 2005), 179.

20. A Special Social Security Scheme for Domestic Service Employees was launched in 2000. This scheme expanded the access to health and pension benefits for household workers. In 2006, the Federal Administration of Public Revenue (AFIP) and the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security (MTEySS), implemented a program for the regularization of household workers, which resulted in a relative growth in domestic work formal registration. As noted by Ania Tizziani, this program was accompanied by a wide publicity and with the implementation of training programs specifically targeted at household workers. See Ania Tizziani, “Organización colectiva de las trabajadoras domésticas en la Ciudad de Buenos Aires: el impulso y sus límites.,” Actas de las VII Jornadas de Sociología–Instituto de de Ciencias (2012): 5. Later, in March 2010, the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez, introduced a bill concerning the amendment of Domestic Service Statute. Three years later, in March 2013, the new law replaced the former Domestic Service Statute 1956, which amplified household workers’ labor rights. These changes must be understood in the context of a new scenario in which household workers’ claims gained strength in Latin America as well as part of various international institutions, especially the International Labour Organization. See Blackett, Adelle, “Introduction: Regulating Decent Work for Domestic Servants,” Canadian Journal of Women and Law 23 (2011): 146 .

21. Carlo Ginzburg, El hilo y las huellas. Lo verdadero, lo falso, lo ficticio (Buenos Aires, 2010).

22. Decree-Law 326, Boletín Oficial, January 20, 1956.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Act 565/1957, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

26. Act 18/1962, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

27. Act 52/1964, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

28. Act 301/1964, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

29. Goldstein, Laughter Out.

30. Act 223/1960, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

31. Act 206/1960, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

32. Act 337/1966, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. Milanesio, Natalia, “The Guardian Angels of the Domestic Economy”: Housewives’ Responsible Consumption in Peronist Argentina,” Journal of Women's History 18 (2006): 91117 ; Elena, Eduardo, “Peronist Consumer Politics and the Problem of Domesticating Markets in Argentina, 1943–1955,” Hispanic American Historical Review 87 (2006): 111–49.

36. Pite, Rebekah, “Entertaining Inequalities: Doña Petrona, Juanita Bordoy, and Domestic Work in Mid-Twentieth-Century Argentina,” Hispanic American Historical Review 91 (2011): 97138 ; Pérez, Inés, “Modern Kitchens in the Pampas: Home Mechanization and Housework in Argentina (Argentina), 1940–1970,” Journal of Women's History 27 (2015): 88109 .

37. Lilia Vázquez Lorda, “El otro ángel del hogar es mujer, trabajadora y asalariada. Las empleadas domésticas y el catolicismo en la Argentina de los años 1950,” in Familia, género y después… Itinerarios entre lo público, lo privado y lo íntimo, ed. Norberto Álvarez (Rosario, 2010), 107–26.

38. As has been pointed out by Rebekah Pite, in Argentina domestic service was usually handled by female employers, in what can be described as a maternalistic relation. Nevertheless, this is not always visible in the demands issued before the TDW, sometimes addressed to male employers and sometimes to their wives. Pite, “Entertaining Inequalities.”

39. Act 337/1966, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico, Archivo General de la Nacion, Buenos Aires.

40. Enrique Garguin, “Los argentinos descendemos de los barcos”: The Racial Articulation of Middle Class Identity in Argentina, 1920–1960,” in The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History, ed. Ricardo López and Barbara Weinstein (Durham and London, 2012), 355–76.

41. Omar Acha, Crónica sentimental de la Argentina peronista. Sexo, inconciente e ideología, 1945–1955 (Buenos Aires, 2014), 400.

42. Ibid., 404. Daniel James, Resistencia e integración. El peronismo y la clase trabajadora argentina (Buenos Aires, 2010).

43. Adriana Valobra, Del hogar a las urnas. Recorridos de la ciudadanía política femenina argentina, 1946–1955 (Buenos Aires, 2010).

44. Diario de sesiones de la Cámara de Diputados de la Nación, 8 de septiembre de 1955, 1240.

45. Decree Law 326/1956.

46. Calculations based on data provided by Mónica Gogna, “Empleadas domésticas.”

47. Act 20/1981, Fondo: Tribunal Trabajo Domestico.

48. Ibid., Act 17/1978.

49. Ibid., Act 5/1979.

50. Law 20744.

51. The obligation to provide daycare centers, however, was not enforced.

52. Giordano, Verónica, “La celebración del año internacional de la mujer en Argentina (1975): acciones y conflictos,” Revista Estudos Feministas 20 (2012): 7594 .

53. Pérez, “Un ‘régimen especial.’”

54. Mario Deveali, “Régimen de previsión para el personal del SD. Dto 11.911/56,” Derecho del trabajo, 1956.

55. Antonio Vázquez Vialard, “Situación jurídica del servicio doméstico excluido del estatuto,” Derecho del Trabajo, 1973.

56. Act 6/1979.

57. Act 5/1986.

58. Javier Lindenboim, “La fuerza de trabajo en el siglo XX. Viejas y nuevas discusiones,” in Población y bienestar en la Argentina del primero al segundo Centenario. Una historia social del siglo XX T. II, ed. Susana Torrado (Buenos Aires, 2007), 314–15.

59. Lindenboim, 314–15.

60. Nancy Fraser, Iusticia Interrupta. Reflexiones críticas desde la posición “postsocialista” (Bogotá, 1997).

61. Zelizer, La negociación.

62. See for example, Hutchison, Elizabeth, “Shifting Solidarities: The Politics of Household Workers in Cold War Chile,” Hispanic American Historical Review 91 (2011): 129–62; Merike Blofield, Care Work and Class: Domestic Workers’ Struggle for Equal Rights in Latin America (University Park, PA, 2012).

63. Omar Acha, “La organización sindical de las trabajadoras domésticas durante el primer peronismo,” Revista de Estudios Marítimos y Sociales (2012): 27–39.

64. Tizziani, “Organización colectiva.”

65. Tizziani, “Organización colectiva.”

* Following the unions’ usual terminology, we use the term “household worker” to refer to the workers.

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International Labor and Working-Class History
  • ISSN: 0147-5479
  • EISSN: 1471-6445
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