Navigating Occupational Health Rights: The Function of Illegality, Language, and Class Inequality in Workers' Compensation
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[Excerpt] In this chapter, I argue that although undocumented status has little formal bearing on the ability of workers like Jose to access key rights such as workers' compensation, illegality shapes every aspect of occupational health and the claims-making experience. I interrogate three key factors of institutional inequality: 1) undocumented workers' position within the labor market; which shapes risk of injury and eligibility for coverage; 2) the ability of undocumented workers to navigate their claims through the workers' compensation bureaucracy; and 3) undocumented workers' disenfranchisement from the welfare state and their limited options following disability. Within each of these institutional spaces, I highlight the ways that undocumented status also intersects with the other axes of vulnerability that shape immigrants' lives. I build on Rathod (2010), who questions the tendency to position immigration status as the over-riding factor determining the lives of undocumented workers, and argue that we must also attend to those "corollary regimes" that also impact their lives. According to Rathod, "understanding immigration status in context allows for consideration of intersections between status and these other attributes and experiences (280)." I focus especially on the role of language and economic precarity, which I argue are key aspects of the racial experience for Latino immigrant workers in the United States. I argue that the full effect of these factors cannot be understood independently of undocumented status.
illegal immigration; occupational health; undocumented workers; worker rights; workers compensation
Required Publisher Statement: © Taylor & Francis. Final version published as: Gleeson, S. (2014). Navigating occupational health rights: The function of illegality, language, and class inequality in workers' compensation [Electronic version]. In J. Park & S. Gleeson. (Eds.), The nation and its peoples: Citizens, denizens, migrants (pp.179-202). New York: Routledge. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.