Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat
Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat
Immigration has been a contentious issue for decades, but in the twenty-first century it has moved to center stage, propelled by an immigrant threat narrative that blames foreign-born workers, and especially the undocumented, for the collapsing living standards of American workers.  According to that narrative, if immigration were summarily curtailed, border security established, and ""illegal aliens"" removed, the American Dream would be restored.

In this book, Ruth Milkman demonstrates that immigration is not the <i>cause</i> of economic precarity and growing inequality, as Trump and other promoters of the immigrant threat narrative claim. Rather, the influx of low-wage immigrants since the 1970s was a <i>consequence</i> of concerted employer efforts to weaken labor unions, along with neoliberal policies fostering outsourcing, deregulation, and skyrocketing inequality. 

These dynamics have remained largely invisible to the public. The justifiable anger of US-born workers whose jobs have been eliminated or degraded has been tragically misdirected, with even some liberal voices recently advocating immigration restriction. This provocative book argues that progressives should instead challenge right-wing populism, redirecting workers' anger toward employers and political elites, demanding upgraded jobs for foreign-born and US-born workers alike, along with public policies to reduce inequality.
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  • July 2020
  • 200 pages
  • 153 x 214 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9780745692012
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9780745692029
  • Open eBook $18.00
  • 9780745692050
Table of Contents
1 Brown-Collar Jobs: Low-Wage Immigrant Workers in the 21st Century
2 Immigration and Labor in Historical Perspective
3 The Eclipse of the New Deal: Labor Degradation, Union Decline, and Immigrant Workers
4 Growing Inequality and Immigrant Employment in Paid Domestic Labor and Service Industry Jobs
5 Immigrant Labor Organizing and Advocacy in the Neoliberal Era       
About the Author
Ruth Milkman is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Academic Director of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. She served as President of the American Sociological Association in 2016.
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“This new book is a vital corrective to the conservative claim that immigrants ‘take jobs’ from American workers. Milkman's careful historical research shows that de-unionization and job degradation, on the one hand, and rising inequality on the other, are the key drivers of rising low-wage immigration over the past half-century — not vice versa. Understanding that employers and political elites are to blame for the plight of U.S.-born workers — not immigrants — can help to build bridges across racial and ethnic lines to mount a unified challenge to the toxic politics of right-wing populism.”
Pramila Jayapal, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

“Ruth Milkman addresses the central claim of contemporary nativism, that immigrants ‘take’ the jobs of ‘Americans.’ She persuasively shows that immigrant labor is not the cause of wage degradation, but its consequence. An important and timely book.”
Mae Ngai, Columbia University

“This carefully documented and forcefully argued book is a convincing counter to conventional immigration narratives.”
Michael J. Piore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"In her four-plus decades of pioneering research, Ruth Milkman has profoundly changed the way we approach gender, immigration, and work. . . . Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat does much to capture the policy and political-economic changes that have formed the backdrop of Milkman’s equally pioneering work on immigrant labor organizing."
ILR Review

"A cogent historical sociological argument regarding the main driver of low wage migration to the USA since the 1970s. […] Milkman provides a concise, readable, evidence-based counter-narrative to the 'immigrant threat narrative.'"

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