Power Through Problem Solving: Latino Immigrants and the Inconsistencies of Economic Restructuring

Nichola Lowe, Natasha Iskander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Employment restructuring is a transformative process that brings about significant changes in how work is organised and experienced. Scholars who study restructuring in industries that employ large numbers of immigrant workers, including construction, food processing, or janitorial services, often point to the undermining effects of this transformation on industry wage standards, working conditions, and training supports. But often missing from these accounts is a recognition that restructuring is uneven and incomplete at best and often produces shortcomings and limitations that continue to frustrate and perplex immigrant and native-born workers alike. Drawing on a multi-year study of construction workers in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, we find Latino immigrants are far from passive inheritors of the problems of restructuring that they and others encounter during their daily work. Rather, they respond to these challenges with innovative and lasting solutions, developing new work structures and routines that support industry skill development, knowledge sharing, and quality standards. Equally important, their native-born supervisors and co-workers have learned to value these solutions and ultimately have stepped in as influential allies, helping immigrant workers leverage these contributions to secure improved working conditions and higher compensation levels. These exchanges have tethered immigrant and non-immigrant workers together and in ways that challenge standard narratives of native dominance and immigrant exploitation. The result is intensified interdependency and ultimately the creation of an enduring relational resource for promoting worker rights and also for guiding further immigrant advocacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2023
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Volume23
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2017

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Keywords

  • immigration
  • restructuring
  • skill

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development

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