Economic Restructuring, Immigration and the New Labor Movement: Latina/o Janitors in Los Angeles (Working Paper #9)

Cynthia Cranford, University of Southern California

Introduction: The move toward a service-based economy has forced the American labor movement to change. The growing low-wage service sector is characterized by “flexible’ production resulting in contract, temporary, part-time or other casualized work. Labor law drafted in the pre-war era is ineffective protection for these new, casualized service-sector jobs; and labor protections were eroded in the Reagan decade. Restructuring has been achieved through processes of racialization as recently arrived immigrant women and men were recruited to the downgraded jobs. At the same time their work is made invisible through a gendered, anti-immigrant discourse that constructs them as economic burdens. In response to these structural changes, many unions have returned away from the bureaucratized, business unionism of the post-war era and have begun to organize the Latino and Asian immigrant women and men concentrated in these sectors. These unions have returned to a ‘community unionism,’ using direct-action organizing tactics successful in earlier periods of unionization. Like in previous historical moments when restructuring and immigration collided, immigrant women are active participants in this ‘new’ labor movement. In this paper I examine whether these processes affect relations of gender and race, with a case study of the Justice for Janitors (J4J) organizing campaign of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles janitors are members of a new cohort of Latino workers, most of whom are recent arrivals. They are Salvadorans and Guatemalans who left home in the 1980s due to civil war and economic depression. The Mexicans are heavily made up of the ‘migrantes de la crises,’ described by Corneilus (1991), – new streams of migrants who left urban areas during the economic crises of the 1980s and early 1990s. Women are well represented in this new wave of Latino migrants. Many of these Latina migrants are single, most came to work and are significantly contributing to their household economies (Bretell and Simon 1986; Sassen and Fernandez-Kelly 1995). Women make up roughly 50% of Justice for Janitors members in Los Angeles. The prominent role played by women in Justice for Janitors, has recently been recognized during a three-week strike in L.A. Some politicians and journalists are calling the Justice for Janitors campaign a ‘new women’s movement” (Treviño 2000). However, Justice for Janitors is more than a movement for women. Justice for Janitors is mobilizing women alongside men within a frame of immigrant rights.

An understanding of the implications of this movement requires a theory and methodology that can link individual lives to structural constraints in a given historical moment. After a brief review of the literature on women and unions, I discuss how a theory of practice and a cohort analysis allows us to better understand social change. I then examine the structural constraints facing Justice for Janitors, focusing on the linkages between restructuring and immigration. Finally I examine the ‘frames’ and practices of organizing within this movement. I examine the extent to which women’s engagement in new practices alongside men disrupt gendered and racialized relations of power that shape the lives of both women and men.

Working Paper #9»

Negotiating National Identity: Middle Eastern and Asian Immigrants and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Working Paper #8)

Jeffrey Lesser, Connecticut College

Summary: Today I will examine the processes by which ethnic identities and perceptions were constructed in the twenties, thirties and forties, and how these function as a kind of mirror in which national identity confronted itself. These were decades of enormous demographic change, massive economic growth, and authoritarian rule. They were also years when what it meant in a public sense to be a “Brazilian” was widely contested. By examining similar strategies used by Syrian-Lebanese (the term used to describe those of middle eastern descent) and nikkei (which describes those of Japanese descent) I will show how markedly Brazilian national identity was redefined prior to World War II. I have chosen these two groups for three reasons: first these communities each claim over one million people (there are more people of Japanese descent in Brazil than in the rest of the world combined, for example); second, many who define themselves as Syrian-Lebanese and nikkei have found wide success in the political, economic and social spheres; and third, it was exactly the “non-whiteness and non-blackness” of these two groups that most challenged elite notions of Brazilian identity.7 By examining public ethnicity as expressed in the language of the majority – in newspapers and books, on the political stage, and in the academy – I want to suggest that the definitions of virtually all of the components of national identity – ethnicity, class, color, gender, and even the very boundaries of the Brazilian state – were successfully negotiated by certain groups. By the mid-twentieth century, elite paradigms about who was and was not an acceptable Brazilian changed so markedly that many European groups were no longer in the “white” category while at certain times Asians and Middle Easterners were.

Working Paper #8»

Economic Restructuring and Racialization: Incorporating of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the Rural Midwest (Working Paper #7)

Nancy A. Naples, University of California – Irvine

Introduction: Economic restructuring contributes to a shifting international division of labor that is reshaping the racial-ethnic composition of communities across the U.S. Mexicans have been particularly hard hit by the processes of displacement and wage depreciation in regions across their country. As a consequence of their displacement from other regions coupled with the development of low wage food processing and related industries in the rural Midwest, Latinos are forming a growing proportion of migrants to the Midwest.1 As a result rural communities in the Midwest with a traditionally white European American population have been forced to confront their own racism and manage ethnic tensions previously seen as the problems of urban areas or rural communities in the South, Southwest, and West. How these predominantly white European American communities deal with the growing racial-ethnic diversity will affect the sense of community cohesion and quality of life enjoyed by all residents regardless of racial-ethnic background. The climate for non-white and non-English speaking migrants to the rural Midwest reflects the xenophobic political and social climate in the US more generally. First captured in California’s Proposition 187 and embedded in the 1996 welfare legislation that initially denied legal immigrants and their children access to public assistance intensifies the resistance faced by anyone who addresses the problems of non-white or non-English speaking migrants and immigrants in any US community.2

This presentation centers the standpoint of Mexican and Mexican American residents in rural Iowa and consequently argues for a broadened definition of the state that captures the multiple arenas through which these residents are incorporated into the United States economy, society and polity. This process of incorporation occurs at the local community level and involves ongoing social regulatory activities that circumscribe the ways in which these new residents can make claims as permanent members of this small rural town. These local social regulatory activities construct the racialized, gendered and class specific grounds upon which the Mexicans and Mexican Americans can earn a living wage, access social provisions and gain a political voice to protect their status as legitimate members of the local polity. Shifting the standpoint to those who are often viewed only as the already constituted targets of specific state intervention offers a vivid angle from which to explore the complex processes through which citizenship or legal resident status is constructed and citizenship or residence claims legitimated.

Working Paper #7»

Gender Differences in Support for Radical Right, Anti- Immigrant Political Parties (Working Paper #6)

Terrie E. Givens, University of Washington

Summary: The rise of radical right parties in Western Europe has led to the politicization of issues such as immigration, making them more salient to voters. The radical right has been skillful in some countries in using the issues of immigration and unemployment to increase its vote share. In using immigration as an issue, radical right parties, particularly in France and Austria, have been able to attract mainly young male voters, who are often referred to as “modernization losers.”

Although the radical right has been successful in some countries, there has been an ongoing gender gap in the vote for radical right parties. The electorates of radical right parties are predominantly male. In this paper I will explore two reasons for this gap. The overall hypothesis is that the anti-immigrant positions these parties take are not attractive to women. First, this may be due to different attitudes women may have toward immigrants. Second, women may be in jobs in which they are less likely to feel threatened by globalization or immigration.

Working Paper #6»

Undocumented Migration in the USA and Germany: An Analysis of the German Case with Cross- References to the U.S. Situation (Working Paper #4)

Holk Stöbbe, University of Göttingen – Germany

Summary: I am going to focus my presentation on the German case and will only make a few cross-references to the situation in the U.S., since the U.S. case has been discussed thoroughly elsewhere. First, a brief overview of some of the literature and methods used will be given. Secondly, this paper will show that a theory of undocumented migration is, if not inexistent, then at least still under construction. Thirdly, the pitfalls of quantitative data on undocumented migration are to be demonstrated. Finally, the paper will present some of the policies in Germany to control both documented and undocumented migration and their effects on the lives of undocumented migrants.

Working Paper #4»

The Role of the State in Influencing African Labour Outcomes in Spain and Portugal (Working Paper #3)

Cristóbal Mendoza, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Summary: The paper observes African labour outcomes in the light of different immigration policies of Portugal and Spain. The comparison between Portugal and Spain illustrates two ‘sensibilities’ to immigration. Thus the paper first examines recent trends in the immigration policies of Spain and Portugal. Here the circumstances in which a non-EU national is allowed to work legally are reviewed for both countries. Using interview responses from African workers, employers and key local informants in three Iberian regions (namely, Girona in northern Catalunya, Algarve in southern Portugal and the Península de Setúbal on the Lisbon outskirts), the paper secondly explores consequences of different immigration policies on the incorporation of African workers in two host labour markets. It concludes that the action of the state is a key element in explaining dissimilarities in African patterns of employment in Portugal and Spain.

Working Paper #3»

African Immigrant Workers in Spanish Agriculture (Working Paper #2)

Keith Hogart, King’s College London

Cristóbal Mendoza, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Summary: The objective of this paper is to go beyond such statistical counts by examining the reasons why African immigrants are being employed in Spanish farming. 1 Underlying this concern is recognition of an essential difference between earlier mass immigration into north-central Europe and current inflows into southern Europe. Principally this difference emerges because immigration into southern Europe has occurred at a time of economic weakness and high unemployment. As Kindleberger (1967) indicates, an essential factor in economic growth in north-central Europe after 1945 was a substantial increment in non-agricultural employment. In so far as this helped limit wage inflation, immigration played a key role in promoting economic growth. The idea that employment growth is outstripping local labour supplies clearly bears little resemblance to the situation in southern European economies today (e.g. examine comparative employment performance indicators in Commission of the European Communities, annual).

Working Paper #2»

Social, Spatial, and Skill Mismatch Among Immigrants and Native-Born Workers in Los Angeles (Working Paper #1)

Manuel Pastor, University of California – Santa Cruz

Enrico Marcelli, University of Massachusetts – Boston

Summary: This paper explores how these various “mismatches” determine labor market outcomes in Los Angeles County. The primary data source, from which we draw individual human capital and social network quality, is the Los Angeles Survey of Urban Inequality (LASUI). We combine this database with both a unique dataset on job location and composition and Census-based data. The combination allows us to create better measures of spatial mismatch than those used in most of the previous literature, including a variable capturing job growth in a localized labor market and an innovative measure of the divergence between the skill base of local residents and the skill requirements of local employment.

Working Paper #1»