Active Industrial Citizenship of Domestic Workers: Lessons Learned from Unionizing Attempts in Israel and the United Kingdom

Einat Albin, Virginia Mantouvalou


In this Article we offer a new conceptualization of industrial citizenship, which is sensitive to gender and migration status. Our conceptualization builds on the theoretical distinction between active and passive citizenship and the analyses of active industrial citizenship. We suggest that active industrial citizenship should be detached from the old and influential tradition of trade unionism that is connected with the public/private divide. Our proposed conceptualization leads to attaching value to activities related to ethics of care and to the pursuit of legal status, which should be seen as forms of activism. The discussion focuses on organizing domestic workers. We argue that this new conceptualization of active industrial citizenship leads to the recognition of domestic workers as active industrial citizens, rather than passive victims of abuse. It also transforms the way we view organizational forms within the labor market, making it possible to appreciate on an equal basis membership in trade unions and participation in NGOs and other civil society organizations, thereby building cooperation as well as taking part in other aspects of public life. We ground our argument on theoretical literature as well as a qualitative study and a series of interviews with key trade union and NGO actors with expertise in organizing and supporting domestic workers in Israel and the United Kingdom.

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