"Movements Wrestling: Union Engagement with Migrant Worker Policy and Organizing in Comparative Perspective

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:20 AM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Janice FINE , Labor Studies and Employment Relations, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Migrants crossing borders in search of better economic opportunities are often able to utilize their social networks to gain employment but they face the depravities of the labour market alone unless unions and other non-governmental organizations become involved in supporting voice, not only in the workplace but in the polity as well.  An institutionalized labour movement can provide protection, support and the possibility of ongoing representation for migrant workers. Indeed, migrant workers are taking advantage of increased opportunities to partner with unions, but this is happening at a time of great peril for the labour movement.  Historically, unions have engaged in vigorous debates regarding labour migration; even when they have adopted “pro-migration” policy positions, approaches to organising and representation have varied depending upon the individual culture, structure and ideology of specific national and local unions.  Of course unions do not act to influence policy or organise migrant workers in a vacuum, rather they do so within specific state contexts.  This paper will focus on some of the key debates concerning migrant issues that unions have engaged, as well as the strategies and specific types of organising efforts that have been launched in recent times and the underlying impetus for these efforts including the role played by national union federations, national unions, global union federations and NGO's.  It will draw upon research conducted on US, UK, Jordan, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and South African cases.