The Racialization of Day Labor Work in the U.S. Labor Market: Examining the Exploitation of Immigrant Labor
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In early October 2005, just over a month after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast region of the United States, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked local business leaders how he was to ensure that the city was not overrun by Mexican workers. These remarks vocalized the concerns of many regarding Latino immigrant workers to post-Katrina New Orleans. Likewise, they foreshadowed the obstacles faced by Latino reconstruction workers in the city. This dissertation examines Latino day labor participation in New Orleans, Louisiana by focusing on the racialized experiences of immigrant reconstruction workers. There is an established literature on racial/ethnic immigrant labor market inequality, addressing Latino wage penalties and occupational segregation as well as recent studies focusing on the gendered and racialized experiences of Latina and Chicana domestic workers in the U.S. However, established demographic research on day labor participation in the U.S. has failed to capture fully how day laborers experience "race" and how this has impacted their integration into the labor market. The broad questions guiding this dissertation are: "What are the racialized experiences of day laborers?"; "How does the process of racialization shape the work experiences of day laborers?"; "How do day laborers negotiate these experiences and interactions with co-workers, employers, and their community?" This dissertation focused on a 23 month ethnographic research and 31 in-depth semi-structured interviews with Latino day laborers in post-Katrina New Orleans. This research underscores the crucial role that Latino day laborers play as non-standard workers in a racialized labor market, historically organized along a black/white continuum. The findings demonstrated day laboring is a process that takes place in racialized spaces, where day laborers exert emotional work. Findings also demonstrated how "race" impacts the day-to-day work experiences of day laborers, and how immigration status is a racialized social characteristic that allows for exploitation of immigrant workers. Finally, this dissertation examined the resistance strategies used by day laborers, and their organizing efforts toward achieving social justice in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Murga, Aurelia Lorena (2011). The Racialization of Day Labor Work in the U.S. Labor Market: Examining the Exploitation of Immigrant Labor. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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