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An important new oral history collection documenting the lives and careers of home health-care workers in Oregon is now available on the Library of Congress’ website. The American Folklife Center recently announced the release of “Taking Care: Documenting the Occupational Culture of Home Health-Care Workers.” This fieldwork is part of the center’s Occupational Folklife Project and the seventh such collection to be put online.
In 2014, Professor Bob Bussel and his colleagues at the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center in Eugene, Oregon, received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center to conduct oral history interviews with workers who provide home-based care for the elderly and the disabled throughout the state of Oregon. Bussel and his team worked closely with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 503, to record 35 in-depth interviews with home health-care workers, an occupation that was not previously represented in the American Folklife Center archive.
The collection’s interviews with the health-care workers took place primarily in the workers’ homes and at the offices of SEIU Local 503 in Eugene, Portland and Salem, Oregon, as well at as the office of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Interviews were conducted primarily in English, although a few were conducted in Russian. Interviewees ranged from long-time home health-care workers to individuals who had more recently joined the profession. Many interviews also touched on the role of their union, SEIU, in training individual workers, establishing professional standards and enforcing equitable pay and benefits.