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Thursday, March 20 • 10:55am - 12:15pm
TH2.06 Low Wage Workers: Inspiring a New Labor Movement and Urban Social Movements

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Low wage workers’ issues have erupted into the spotlight in urban areas across the U.S. through several highly visible campaigns over recent years. These new movements highlight economic justice concerns and spur new forms of labor organizing built on community support and participation. Their issues – low wages, irregular employment, wage theft, jobs safety and health – are redefining urban social justice agendas and the labor movement. From car wash workers, day laborers, agricultural workers, restaurant and fast food workers, big box workers, domestic workers, taxi drivers, workfare workers and previously incarcerated people, a new economic agenda is inspiring the public, the labor movement and community activists. Immigrant workers’ concerns are central in this agenda. These workers face many challenges and vulnerabilities. Many are in industries not protected by federal labor law in terms of rights on the job. Fair labor standards are often flagrantly violated. Immigrant workers fear being reported to immigration authorities if they speak up and demand rights. The traditional labor movement is only just beginning to grapple with how to incorporate these issues into their agenda and organizations. Numerous additional factors could be listed. Despite these obstacles, low wage vulnerable workers are asserting themselves, turning their issues into matters of public concern, with particular relevance in the urban areas in which they organize. These workers are living, breathing examples of the Occupy Movement’s “99%.” This colloquy features leading scholars involved with these issues. They are experts on immigrant worker centers, day laborers, domestic workers and other groups. They have written extensively about how these various workers organize and have deep connections to the organizations involved in these movements. The colloquy will take up the following questions: -what issues are raised by workers in these various sectors? -how do these contest the contours of neo-liberalist labor relations? -how are these workers shaping urban social movements in the current context?


Virginia Parks

University of Chicago

Nik Theodore

University of Illinois at Chicago


James DeFilippis

Rutgers University

Thursday March 20, 2014 10:55am - 12:15pm
El Rincon De Maria (Westin 1st Floor)