Making Solidarities in the Context of Precarity. Grassroots Organising Among Low-Paid Migrant Workers in London

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Davide PERO, Nottingham University, United Kingdom
Despite migrant workers’ social and economic significance their organizing practices have been overlooked. Through an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach, this paper examines the innovative organizing practices that low-paid and precarious migrant workers in the UK have been articulating to promote their interests and combat their exploitation and exclusion. In examining practices of representation and self-representation of migrant workers, this paper addresses the following questions: What do the organizing practices of new migrant workers look like? What do they provide that traditional trade unions approaches do not? What is the role of identity, emotions and non-material rewards in such practices?

Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork, the paper will contribute original insights into contemporary industrial struggles in the service sector revealing how existing ‘opportunity structures’ of representation can be inadequate for these workers who then often have to develop bottom-up alternatives to be better represented. Indeed, the paper will outline how migrants’ labour initiatives can have crucial representational functions that mainstream British unions are often not able or willing to provide. It will also illustrate how migrant workers’ industrial agency and organizing practices can be rewarding both in material and non-material terms, providing a sense of the role played by subjectivity, culture and emotions.