Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Claiming Rights to Workplace Safety: Latin American Immigrant Workers in Southwestern Ontario

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Claiming Rights to Workplace Safety: Latin American Immigrant Workers in Southwestern Ontario

Article excerpt


Drawing on the studies of citizenship practices and health and safety literature, this paper explores the reporting of workplace injuries and hazards among Latin American immigrants in Southwestern Ontario. The paper examines how (under-)reporting is shaped by three conditions: the knowledge of workers' rights, job (in)security, and ethnic identities. Recognizing knowledge as a significant factor which enables or constrains the capacity to claim one's citizenship rights, we demonstrate that even when Latin American immigrant workers develop a good understanding of their rights, many are still unable to assert them. We argue that this lack of rights access reflects the intersection of two relevant factors - workplace (in)security and ethnic and immigrant identities - which discourage their reporting. In particular, we demonstrate that since Latin American immigrants often find themselves in subordinate positions in the Canadian labour market, they choose not to report injuries and unsafe working environments for fear of discipline and reprisals. In addition, immigrant, regional, ethnic, and home country identities, all of which can limit or contradict a full sense of citizenship, appear to exert some influence on the way workers understand their workplace rights. The paper is based on 44 in-depth interviews conducted with Latin American immigrants in 2010.


Cet article analyse les declarations sur les dangers et les accidents dans le milieu du travail parmi les immigrants latino-americains du sud-ouest de l'Ontario, en s'appuyant sur les etudes des pratiques citoyennes et sur la bibliographie dans le domaine de la sante et la securite. L'article examine la maniere dont ces declarations sont influencees par trois facteurs : la connaissance des droits des travailleurs, la securite d'emploi et les identites ethniques. Bien que la connaissance soit un facteur significatif qui favorise ou empeche la capacite d'affirmer ses droits de citoyennete, les auteurs demontrent que, meme quand les travailleurs migrants d'origine latino-americaine developpent une bonne comprehension de leurs droits, beaucoup d'entre eux ont de la difficulte a les exercer. Les auteurs expliquent que ce manque d'acces aux droits reflete l'intersection de deux facteurs importants - l'insecurite dans le lieu de travail et les identites ethniques et immigrantes --qui decouragent leur exercice. En particulier, on demontre que, du fait que les immigrants latino-americains se trouvent souvent dans des positions subordonnee dans le marche du travail canadien, ils choisissent de ne pas declarer les accidents et les conditions dangereuses des milieux professionnels en raison de la crainte des sanctions. Aussi, les identites immigrantes, regionales, ethniques ou du pays d'origine, toutes lesquelles peuvent limiter ou contredire un sens plein de la citoyennete, semblent avoir une influence sur la facon dont les travailleurs comprennent leurs droits. L'article porte sur 44 entrevues en profondeur realisees aupres d'immigrants latino-americains en 2010.


Immigrants learn, interpret, and redefine the meaning of citizenship in a new country. Although definitions of citizenship vary, they are commonly related to a combination of collectively shared identity, a bundle of rights and responsibilities, as well as political membership and participation (Isin and Wood 1999; Wiener 1997; Lister 2003; Somers 2008; Benhabib 2007). The notion of citizenship presumes its universal application (Marshall 1950 [1964]). Yet, in reality, various groups of people have been excluded from its benefits and privileges, and it is through diverse forms of collective action that some of these people have achieved greater inclusion. Recognizing the discrepancy between the citizenship ideal and the lived experiences, researchers have explored how Latin American migrants attempt to increase political participation, express belonging to the Canadian society, and enhance access to such citizenship rights as education, housing, and recognition of ethno-cultural differences (e. …

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