Forbidden Workers and the U.S. Labor Movement

Fuzhounese in New York City

Author: Peter Kwong

Abstract:

Sweatshops exist when capital can exert maximum leverage over workers in setting wages, hours of work, conditions of labor, flexibility of hiring and firing, as well as in stopping workers from organizing and authorities from enforcing labor laws. In our globalized economy, these shops do not have to exist only in Third World countries. This article shows that sweatshops exist in the United States, especially in immigrant communities, where labor enforcement does not exist and employers have the upper hand. Employers like those in New York City's Chinatown are able to recruit illegal immigrants to work for them. Chinese illegals, having to pay their smuggling debts or face the possibility of physical violence, are willing to work under almost any circumstance just to meet their debt obligations. Employers take full advantage of this situation by lowering the working standard even further for everyone including legal immigrants under nineteenth century-like conditions. This will not change unless there is a rank-and-file U.S. labor movement that includes everyone regardless of color, nationality, and legal or illegal status. Only then will labor be in a position to rid the United States of sweatshops and lift up the condition of all U.S. workers.

Download complete article from Taylor & Francis Online

March 2002
© Arthur Jones, PhD