Shannon Gleeson (Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations) examines the role of migrant legal status in driving worker precarity. Specifically, she discusses how immigration enforcement efforts, at-will and contingent employment relationships, and institutional discrimination against other categories of marginal workers in United States, jointly fuel the disposability of undocumented – and even temporary – workers.
Gleeson argues that, as with overly rosy presumptions about the post-Civil Rights era, formal equality for undocumented workers often veils deep-seated structural inequalities that persist despite the existence of formal rights. As such, Gleeson contends that migrant illegality is a 'precarity multiplier' that worsens workplace conditions (occupational segregation, pay differentials, workplace safety); affects claimants’ experiences in the legal bureaucracy (via lack of access to legal counsel, linguistic and cultural barriers, limited remedies); and restricts access to a social safety net that already largely excludes undocumented immigrants.
She identifies several mechanisms that drive this inequality, including the multi-faceted manifestations of employer retaliation, as well as the interests of other government and market actors attached to the claims process.
Shannon Gleeson is Associate Professor of Labor Relations, Law, and History at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She is author most recently of Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States (Forthcoming, October 2016, University of California Press).
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