Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California

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Recruiting the growing numbers of immigrants into union ranks is imperative for the besieged U.S. labor movement. Nowhere is this task more pressing than in California, where immigrants make up a quarter of the population and hold many of the manual jobs that were once key strongholds of organized labor. The first book to offer in-depth coverage of this timely topic, Organizing Immigrants analyzes the recent history of and prospects for union organizing among foreign-born workers in the nation's most populous ...
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Overview

Recruiting the growing numbers of immigrants into union ranks is imperative for the besieged U.S. labor movement. Nowhere is this task more pressing than in California, where immigrants make up a quarter of the population and hold many of the manual jobs that were once key strongholds of organized labor. The first book to offer in-depth coverage of this timely topic, Organizing Immigrants analyzes the recent history of and prospects for union organizing among foreign-born workers in the nation's most populous state.Are foreign-born workers more or less receptive to unionization than their native-born counterparts? Are undocumented immigrants as likely as legal residents and naturalized citizens to join unions? How much does the political, cultural, and ethnic background of immigrants matter? What are the social, political, and economic conditions that facilitate immigrant unionization?Drawing on newly collected evidence, the contributors to this volume explore these and other questions, analyzing immigrant employment and unionization trends in California and examining recent strikes and organizing efforts involving foreign-born workers. The case studies include both successful and unsuccessful campaigns, innovative and traditional strategies, and a variety of industrial and service sector settings.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Organizing Immigrants provides a timely and coherent analysis of the key issue facing North American unions, and of some of the strategies that will allow us to meet this challenge."—Jonathan Eaton. Relations industrielles/Industrial Relations, 2000, Vol. 55, No. 4

"This book about the challenges of organizing immigrant workers into unions could not have come at a better time . . . This important volume breaks new ground in its analysis of how unions organize immigrants."—Industrial and Labor Relations Review, April 2001, Vol. 54, No. 3

"Organizing Immigrants provides a well-rounded overview of the state of California labor at the turn of the century. These articles, taken together, present a very complicated story with no clear predictions for the future of labor organization. . . . Whatever the future holds, if California labor activists are to achieve future successes, Organizing Immigrants is a must read."—Wendell Pritchett, CUNY. Labor History, May 2001, Vol. 42, No. 2

"There is strikingly little contemporary empirical research on union organizing. This makes Milkman's Organizing Immigrants an extremely welcome addition to the literature. Despite its subtitle, this is not a volume for scholars and activists interested in California alone. . . It should be required reading for anyone examining organizing today."—Tom Juravich, University of Massachusetts. Social Forces, Vol 79, No. 4, June 2001

"Organizing Immigrants . . . is set apart from conventional work in California labor history. . . . Each chapter presents a superb and original analysis of the process as it has evolved within an international and a national context and within California. Each chapter is well argued, concluding with a summary of the issues it has raised and the debates it has tracked. . . .It is a welcome contribution to the debates about organizing immigrant labor in California, and it deserves to be widely read."—Zaragosa Vargas, University of California, Santa Barbara. Business History Review, Winter 2001

"Los Angeles is now the largest manufacturing center in the United States. It is also one of the most exploitative. . . . What then, are we to make of the fact that organizing drives among immigrant workers in the Los Angeles region during the early 1990s scored American labor's most notable recent victories' This important book studies what these and subsequent campaigns tell us about the organizability of the 'new immigrants' and union adaptability. . . . Researchers interested in immigrant workers or unions should read the book."—Michael Indergaard, St. John's University. Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 2

"Organizing Immigrants is a much-needed book, an outstanding collection of first-rate scholarship on an important issue."—Dan Clawson, Chair, Scholars, Artists, and Writers for Social Justice

"Organizing Immigrants contains fascinating accounts of recent efforts to organize unions by immigrants in California. No other existing publication tells all of these stories. The book is an extremely valuable contribution to the literature on union organizing and immigrant rights, attractive to a broad audience of union activists, immigrant rights activists, and academics."—Elissa McBride, Organizing Department, AFL-CIO

"Organizing Immigrants is a gift to those of us trying to understand the evolution of contemporary American society. The volume presents a series of case studies prepared by a particularly sensitive and perceptive group of social scientists, and offers glimpses of the interaction between two social forces that will have a determining impact on the country's social and economic life in the coming decade."—Michael Piore, MIT, author of The Second Industrial Divide

"Few issues are more important to the future of the labor movement than helping immigrant workers organize. This book provides the best account available of the problems and prospects involved in this task. It includes detailed analyses of some of the most widely discussed labor actions of the 1990s—the near legendary cases of Justice for Janitors, the southern California drywall strike, and the L.A. Manufacturing Action Project. It should be read by everyone who cares about the future of organized labor."—John J. Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801486173
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Milkman is Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Academic Director of CUNY's Murphy Labor Institute. She is the author of several books, including the prizewinning Gender at Work and L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement. She is the coauthor of Unfinished Business, editor of Organizing Immigrants, and coeditor of New Labor in New York: Precarious Workers and the Future of the Labor Movement, Rebuilding Labor, and Working for Justice, all from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Who Does What? California's Emerging Plural Labor Force 25
Ch. 2 Immigrant Workers and American Labor: Challenge ... or Disaster? 49
Ch. 3 "Organize or Die": Labor's New Tactics and Immigrant Workers 81
Ch. 4 Immigration and Unionization in the San Francisco Hotel Industry 109
Ch. 5 Intense Challenges, Tentative Possibilities: Organizing Immigrant Garment Workers in Los Angeles 130
Ch. 6 Organizing Latino Workers in the Los Angeles Manufacturing Sector: The Case of American Racing Equipment 150
Ch. 7 Organizing the Wicked City: The 1992 Southern California Drywall Strike 169
Ch. 8 Union Representation of Immigrant Janitors in Southern California: Economic and Legal Challenges 199
Ch. 9 The Los Angeles Manufacturing Action Project: An Opportunity Squandered? 225
References 239
Notes on Contributors 249
Index 253
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