Lisa Dodson

Lisa Dodson is a professor of sociology at Boston College. 

Recent Articles

What Happens When the Person Taking Care of Your Mom Can’t Earn a Living Wage?

When the Supreme Court ruled that unions could not collect dues from the home-care workers they represent, the justices set workers and their clients on a course that could harm them both.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that a key strategy used by unions to raise the earnings and professionalism of home-care workers was illegal. Since the 1990s, the labor movement has worked with states and countries to get laws or executive orders to allow home-care workers to be treated as employees of public authorities rather than as individual contractors. The result has been to allow these workers to form unions and to bargain collectively with government for better wages and working standards. In the Harris v. Quinn case, however, the Court held that workers could still unionize, but that they were not true public employees. Unions thus could not collect dues from workers who choose to remain outside the bargaining unit. The Service Employees International Union, which pioneered the strategy, took the ruling as a temporary setback but also as a challenge to redouble organizing of home-care workers. This campaign may yet succeed, but in the short run these workers will have a...

The Work Around

How some supervisors of low-wage workers break the rules
to make an unfair system a little bit fairer.

(Ellen Weinstein)
Even though Andrew, a manager in a large food business in the Midwest, and his wife together make a decent income, he's preoccupied by the issue of low-wage labor. Many of the workers in his food company, he explains, make "poverty wages," and he is affected by all the troubles they bring with them to work. "I pad their paychecks because you can't live on what they make," he says. "I punch them out after they have left for a doctor's appointment or to take care of someone. ... And I give them food to take home." He talks about the moral dilemma of employing people who can't take care of their families even though they are working hard. Apparently this was something Andrew couldn't pretend was OK. He came to the decision to "do what [he] can" even at the risk of being accused of stealing. Andrew has a moderate income, health insurance, and a career ladder, but he spends most of his days dealing with the complications that wage poverty causes in his employees' lives, despite how hard...