Carolyn Pinedo Turnovsky, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies
Abstract: While there have been many studies researching the incorporation of immigrants in the general labor market, few studies highlight the immigrants’ understandings of their own participation as influenced by positions of race and ethnicity, particularly in the informal economy. This presentation concerns the social processes and organization of day labor among Latino and Eastern European immigrants and American citizens at an informal worksite in New York City. The overall research project challenges conventional perceptions about day laborers, explores the social construction of identity, and analyzes the impact race and ethnicity in New York City has on the life experiences of the men. More importantly, this paper explores the active role the men play in their own work experience and describes a “visual queue” frequently used by the “employers” and by the workers. The research highlights the shaping, negotiation, and presentation of identity as it relates to the employment experiences of the different groups of men working at this site and uncovers how these larger social processes are manifested in the visible and less visible everyday practices on a New York City street corner.