Immigrants Unions & The New Us Labor Mkt

Immigrants Unions & The New Us Labor Mkt

Immanuel Ness
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Immigrants Unions & The New Us Labor Mkt
    Book Description:

    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 limousine drivers-striking, picketing, and seeking support for better working conditions. Suddenly, businesses in New York and the nation had changed and were now dependent upon low-paid immigrants to fill the entry-level jobs that few native-born Americans would take.Immigrants, Unions, and the New U.S. Labor Markettells the story of these workers' struggle for living wages, humane working conditions, and the respect due to all people. It describes how they found 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, Immanuel Ness offers a telling look into the lives of some of America's newest immigrants.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-802-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Why New Immigrants Organize
    (pp. 1-12)

    East Natural, a greengrocery on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street in Lower Manhattan, was a haven for harried office workers, college students, and nearby residents foraging for salads, sandwiches, and gourmet food. One of the largest all-purpose, around-the-clock markets in the area, East Natural suddenly went dark in May 2001; newspapers draped the store windows to prevent passersby from looking in. The shuttered doors resulted from a year-long labor struggle that ended in a stalemate when management chose to close the market rather than improve their workers’ wages and working conditions. In the end, thirty-five workers—mostly...

  5. 2 The Political Economy of Transnational Labor in New York City: The Context for Immigrant Worker Militancy
    (pp. 13-39)

    After years of working in obscurity in the unregulated economy, transnational workers in New York City catapulted themselves to the forefront of labor activism in November and December 1999 through three separate organizing drives among low-wage workers. Immigrants initiated all three drives: Mexican immigrants organized and struck for improved wages and working conditions at greengroceries; Francophone African delivery workers struck for unpaid wages and respect from labor contractors for leading supermarket chains; and South Asians organized for improved conditions and a union in the for-hire car service industry.

    This chapter argues that the militancy of immigrant workers arises from their...

  6. 3 Unions and Immigrant Worker Organizing: New Models for New Workers
    (pp. 40-57)

    In recent years, leaders of the AFL-CIO have provided at least rhetorical support for transnational workers. Yet debates continue to simmer within the labor movement about how unions should relate to immigrant workers. To understand the relationship between unions and transnational workers, both nationally and in New York City, this chapter examines the evolution of AFL-CIO policies on immigration restrictions, amnesty, employer sanctions, and the current crackdown on immigrants (Bacon 2000a; Chishti 2000). It then examines the state of the labor movement in New York City, with particular attention to union strategies for organizing workers in general and immigrant workers...

  7. 4 Mexican Immigrants, Class Formation, and Union Organizing in New York’s Greengrocery Industry
    (pp. 58-95)

    Although workers are intimately connected to their employment communities, a huge chasm exists between their workplaces and their neighborhoods. In the United States, workplace politics differ significantly from community politics. Although workers hold a large stake in their employment communities, they have little power in advancing their needs on neighborhood issues that are crucial to the survival of their jobs. For example, what power do workers have in New York City’s informal economy when rising real estate values lead to exorbitantly high commercial rents, causing their employers to shut down and move? The relocation of industrial employment to low-wage areas...

  8. 5 Francophone West African Supermarket Delivery Workers Autonomous Union Organizing Outside of a Union
    (pp. 96-129)

    On April 1, 2000, Siaka Diakite, a thirty-two-year-old immigrant from West Africa’s Ivory Coast, testified at a forum in New York City that he worked as a deliveryman for a supermarket chain without any guarantee of pay. Classified as an independent contractor, Diakite was paid $1 for each delivery made to Manhattan customers. Typical loads of groceries ranged from fifty to one hundred pounds. On average, Diakite worked sixty hours per week for $110, including tips. Diakite was told by his supermarket manager to do whatever the manager ordered, from bagging groceries to mopping floors. If he refused, he would...

  9. 6 Black-Car Drivers: Industrial Restructuring and New Worker Organizing
    (pp. 130-161)

    The previous two chapters’ examinations of greengrocery and delivery worker organizing demonstrate that the restructuring of the food service and other industries and the resulting demand for a low-wage, unregulated labor force have established preconditions for mass migration to New York City. Employers and labor contractors have the best of both worlds through a scheme of labor exploitation that both circumvents U.S. immigration law and intimidates workers by using a loophole in the law that is supposed to punish employers who intentionally hire undocumented workers. Most employers hire undocumented workers with little scrutiny of their legal status. It is only...

  10. 7 The Post–September 11 Economic Crisis and the Government Crackdown on Immigrant Workers
    (pp. 162-180)

    On a late afternoon in August 2003, Mohammad Waseem, a driver for Skyline Car Service, waited in the concourse area of Newark International Airport holding a placard with the name of a female passenger scheduled to arrive. The company had dispatched him to drive the customer to her destination, for which he would receive a voucher that he could redeem for cash at the end of the week. Skyline pledges first-class service: Drivers are required to greet customers, escort them to the baggage claim area, carry and store their luggage in the trunk of the car, and drive them to...

  11. 8 Parallel Organizing: Immigrants and Unions
    (pp. 181-196)

    Any labor organizer deeply engaged in a campaign to establish a union knows the decisive moment foreshadowing the outcome of the struggle—a moment when success or failure appears on the horizon with all that is victory or defeat. If the workers win a union, negotiations with management commence—lose and you move on to another organizing campaign or give up. But unlike professional organizers, win or lose, most workers do not have the option of exit, as most must continue working on the job no matter the outcome.

    Transnational workers who have recently migrated to New York City almost...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-204)
  13. References
    (pp. 205-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-230)