Working Paper

Deserving of Decent Work: The Complications of Organizing Irregular Workers Without Legal Rights

Published 1 January 2005 / By Nicole Silverman

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Introduction

This paper aims to address if it is possible to support irregular workers in their present situation (e.g. irregular status), limit their exploitation but still maintain the competitive advantage that provides them employment. The United States construction industry and its need for flexible labour provides a perfect background for addressing this question. Based heavily on subcontracting, this industry increasingly relies on undocumented migrant workers, whose competitive advantage hinges on their irregular status. I will present two examples (one successful and one not so successful) of a trade union's attempt to organize a part of this labour force and subsequently provide recommendations for how organized labour can better protect the rights of workers in flexible employment.

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