Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labor Market

Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labor Market

Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labor Market

Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labor Market

Synopsis

In recent years, New Yorkers have been surprised to see workers they had taken for granted-Mexicans in greengroceries, West African supermarket deliverymen and South Asian blackcar drivers-striking, picketing and asking their support for better working conditions. Before their eyes the economy of New York, and the nation, had changed as businesses became dependent on low-paid immigrants to fill the entry-level jobs that few native-born Americans would take. Parallel Unionism tells the story of these workers' struggle for equality and respect, how they came to find the courage to organize labor actions at a time when most laborers have become quiescent, and while most labor unions were ignoring them. Showing how unions can learn from the example of these laborers, and demonstrating the importance of solidarity beyond the workplace, the book offers a telling look into the lives of some of America's newest immigrants.

Excerpt

I began fieldwork for this book in the spring of 1995, propelled by the stark recognition of a new reality in New York City—a dramatic, decade-long increase in new, low-wage immigrant workers employed at firms of all sizes throughout the urban region. The new immigrants arriving in the city were substantially different from previous waves of migrants to the metropolis. Most newcomers were found working in positions that just twenty years ago were decent-paying jobs with good wages and working conditions. In contrast to previous waves of immigrant and native-born workers, new transnationals were often employed in the underground economy, an economy in which employers failed to honor government labor regulations concerning wages and working conditions.

This book examines three case studies of immigrant worker organizing drives: greengrocery employees, delivery workers, and black-car drivers. The information is based on fieldwork utilizing ethnographic research methods rather than on statistical surveys of workers or on government data. To understand the lives of workers, qualitative methodology better captures the highly diverse histories and experiences of new immigrants in New York City. This book refrains from structured survey instruments, instead replacing abstract and sometimes irrelevant questions with workers' oral histories and their own interpretations of the motivations that led them to mobilize to achieve dignity on the job.

From April 1998 through October 2003, eighty-three workers working in three industries were interviewed to better understand the parameters of each organizing drive. Forty-eight interviews were held with greengrocery workers, seventeen with supermarket delivery workers, and fourteen with black-car drivers. About half the interviews were set up in advance; the other half were carried out without notice at places of employment and at organizing meetings. Additionally, three group interviews with workers involved in mobilization were conducted as a means of capturing the differences . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.