Gender, Precarious Work, and Labor Organizing

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:45-12:15
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
RC44 Labor Movements (host committee)

Language: English

Gender is a defining feature of precarious and informal work in the 21st century. Women have long been disproportionately concentrated in temporary, casual, seasonal, part-time, and contract work. Recently, men’s jobs also have begun to resemble those once relegated to women, as traditional forms of employment security as well as labor rights and legal protections have been eroded. A growing literature examines the gendered dimension of these expanding types of work, but the gender dynamics of collective efforts to challenge precarity and informality have received far less attention. 
This session will focus on the relationship of gender to collective action repertoires among precarious/informal workers, and on the ways in which the organizations they have are gendered. In contrast to traditional labor unions, such organizations are disproportionately led by women, address concerns traditionally associated with women workers, and adopt strategies that appeal to women. This is often the case even when the workers involved are predominantly male. 
The session will explore these new forms of organizing in the United States, South Africa, India, and South Korea. We will center the session on two key questions: How does precarious/informal worker organizing vary cross-nationally among countries with distinct political regimes, gender arrangements, trade union structures, and levels of economic development? What is the role of gender in structuring work and organizing strategies among precarious/informal workers, and why have organizations of these workers been led disproportionately by women?
Session Organizer:
Ruth MILKMAN, CUNY Graduate Center, USA
Bridget KENNY, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
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