Shifting Agendas, Evolving Coalitions: Advocating For Immigrant Worker Rights in Houston
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This article examines how labor advocates in Houston, Texas, have moved beyond traditional union organizing and individual lawyering to create a wide menu of claims-making options for low-wage Latino immigrant workers. I examine four such moments of immigrant worker advocacy: shepherding workers through the federal bureaucracy for workplace protections, legitimating new local institutions for claims-making, deploying direct action to force employers into compliance, and lastly lobbying for municipal policy change to strengthen penalties for wage theft. Each of these options relies on a coalition that brokers the relationship between aggrieved workers and the bureaucracies entrusted with enforcing their rights. These strategic alliances, I argue, are tenuous and at times antagonistic, but exceedingly necessary in a hostile political context such as Houston. Although they are dynamic and subject to change, these partnerships endure in the short run by defining member organizations’ mutual needs for material resources and symbolic legitimacy.
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immigrant; labor; bureaucracy; worker centers; coalition building; policy advocacy
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Required Publisher Statement: © Wiley. Final version published as: Gleeson, S. (2013). Shifting agendas, evolving coalitions: Advocating for immigrant worker rights in Houston [Electronic version]. WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, 16(2), 207-226. doi: 10.1111/wusa.12039 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.