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This book is on the impact of globalization on precarious employment of immigrants and the role of trade unions in organizing immigrant workers. The overarching goal is to bring together two areas of study that are clearly related but, in most part, separate from each other: international labour migration and trade unions. Drawing on Karl Polanyi’s double movement concept, this volume explores the interplay between globalization, precarious employment of immigrants, and trade unions. The contributors’ country and departmental affiliations reflect the comparative and interdisciplinary nature of this volume. The authors are from a number of countries such as Sweden, Mexico, Germany, and Turkey. They specialize in immigration studies, sociology, industrial relations, geography, and political science.
The first chapter is an introduction authored by the editors. The remaining fifteen chapters are divided into three parts. The first part consists of five chapters and focuses on the political economy of immigrant labour from a comparative perspective. The second chapter of the volume lays out the key facets of the global immigration and labour systems, and demonstrates how they intersect to create global structural inequalities. The third chapter provides the history of inequalities faced by immigrant workers starting from the fifteenth century to the contemporary era. The fourth chapter questions how the definition of ‘immigrant’ is constructed and explores the implications of this definition for both immigrants and natives. The fifth chapter claims that immigrant workers play a crucial role in “precariatization” of work and the conceptualization of work and immigrant status need to be recon-sidered to change the status quo. The sixth chapter claims that the categorization by North and South has become less valid due to the changing patterns of international development and trade unions need to come up with new labour strategies that take into consideration the political economy of contemporary labour migration.
There are five chapters in the second part that examine the interrelationship between trade unions and immigrant workers in two North and South countries respectively: Sweden, the USA, Turkey, and South Africa. The seventh chapter explains trade unions’ incentives to include immigrant workers by providing examples from the USA, UK, and Ireland. Focusing on Swedish unions, the eighth chapter demonstrates the contradicting union strategies for standing against the precarious employment of immigrants and the coordination challenges experienced by the unions as a result. The ninth chapter aims to explain the recent shift of American unions to a pro-immigrant position by investigating the history of the labour movement in the United States. How trade unions and civil society organizations support the irregular immigrant workers who face the adverse impact of precarious work in Turkey is discussed in the tenth chapter. The final chapter in the second part discusses the recent developments in the immigration labour regime in South Africa with a focus on the processes that lead to informalization and precarization of work.
The final part brings together four chapters that critically examine the prospects for global governance of immigrant labour movement from humanity and social justice perspectives. The twelfth chapter investigates the accountability of emerging global governance of immigrant labour and specifically focuses on the implications of International Labour Organization’s “Decent Work Agenda” on immigrant and labour rights. Bringing together findings from countries where immigrant labour is widely established in the textile and garment industry such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan, the thirteenth chapter examines the interrelationships of the stakeholders in transnational labour supply chains. The fourteenth chapter critically examines the effectiveness of multi-sited global governance of immigrant workers and concludes that rather than solving problems, the emergent global regime reproduces the existing issues. The fifteenth and final chapter of the book compares the European Union and the MERCOSUR, the leading trade bloc in South America, to investigate the differences and commonalities of the North and the South and underline the importance of trade unions’ roles for responding to labour immigration issues.
This volume has a number of strengths. First, it brings together two distinct areas of study on the trade unions and immigrant labour in a cohesive way and contributes to the relatively scarce literature on the intersection of these issues. Second, each chapter provides an analysis of the historical and institutional context which allows a deeper understanding of the content. Third, in most part, the authors acknowledge that immigrants are by no means homogenous and differ not only with regard to their nationality but also to gender, race, and class. The authors explore how different groups within immigrant workers might face differing outcomes.
The readers could benefit more from this volume if there were more focus on the South-South immigration. The numbers of international immigrants who live in Europe and Asia are very close and substantially more than the number of international immigrants in North America. It would be very useful for readers to include chapters on countries that host large numbers of international immigrants such as India, China, Ukraine, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. That said, the editors’ decision to focus on specific regions is very understandable considering the limited number of pages allocated for this volume.
Given the increasing number of immigrant workers, their precarious employment, and the revitalization of trade unions, this book is a timely addition to the immigrant labour movement and trade union discussion. The comparative and interdisciplinary nature of this volume allows its readers to have a better understanding of the subject at hand. After completing this book, the readers will be more informed about the contemporary challenges and opportunities faced by immigrants, immigrant labour movements, and civil societies. I recommend this book to researchers who are interested in immigration, sociology of work, industrial and employment relations, globalization, and international development. Practitioners might also benefit from reading this book especially with supplemental readings with an applied focus. Canadian readers should keep in mind that while this volume will provide a solid background for comparative analysis, the Canadian context is not covered in this book.