Ann C. McGinley


Williams demonstrates the vulnerability of parent workers in working class America. In Chapter 2, “One Sick Child Away from Being Fired,” she examines the records of ninety-nine union arbitrations to analyze the problems of working class parents who struggle to juggle their working and parenting responsibilities. Because this chapter is a tour de force in an overall excellent book, and because it suggests an area that my research has focused on over the past number of years, in this Essay, I limit my discussion almost exclusively to this chapter. My approach is to use masculinities theory, a body of social science scholarship, to analyze Williams’s study. Masculinities theory supports and reinforces Williams’s conclusions and points toward a number of recommendations for addressing the problems of gender norms in the workplace. Part II describes masculinities scholarship. Part III analyzes the ninety-nine arbitrations studied by Williams using the lens of masculinities theory. Part IV considers cultural gender norms and makes a number of recommendations. The recommendations include the following: (1) further research; (2) union organizing around and bargaining about flexible scheduling for workers; (3) amendment of existing legislation and passage of new legislation that grants more comprehensive family leave, prohibits discrimination based on family care responsibilities, and grants employees reasonable accommodations; and (4) education about gender roles, caregiving, and social change. The Essay concludes that a combination of improved research, legal actions, and societal change should improve the working and living conditions of all types of families. While not all of these measures will happen instantaneously, working toward these changes is vital to ensuring a healthy economy, healthy citizens, and healthy families.