Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Washington Post has an interesting article on efforts by low wage immigrant -- including undocumented -- workers to unionize in New York City. Immigrant unionization efforts, which belie the stereotype that immigrants are a wholly pliant workforce, have been seen in cities and industries acrosd the country in recent years, with the Janitors for Justice movement in Los Angeles perhaps the most well known.
According to the Post, the deliverymen of the Saigon Grill labored for years at the bottom of Manhattan's food chain. Biking swiftly down the avenues in biting cold and searing heat, they schlepped up high-rises and walk-ups with bags of food. "Then they surprised their bosses by serving up something unexpected: a revolt. The 30 men -- all immigrants, including undocumented workers frustrated with the poor conditions and low wages that are often a fact of life in America's underground economy -- banded together in an effort to unionize."
UPDATE The number of immigrant wage and salary workers who were union members grew by 30 percent from 1996 to 2006, as the number of immigrant workers in the U.S. wage and salary workforce increased by 66 percent. Meanwhile, the number of native-born wage and salary workers in unions decreased by about 9 percent. The Migration Information Source released data on August 28 showing that, in 2006, immigrants made up 15 percent of the U.S. workforce and 12 percent of union members. Despite overall declines in the proportion of both native- and foreign-born wage and salary workers who belong to unions in the last decade, as immigrants' share of workers in the United States has increased, so has their union membership. Some key findings, based on Census survey data, are: * In 2006, 19.74 million immigrant wage and salary workers were employed in the United States, a 66 percent increase over 1996. Immigrants' share of all wage and salary workers increased from 11 to 15 percent in that time. * Twelve percent of the 15.36 million union members in 2006 were foreign born, an increase of 3 percentage points over 1996. * Nearly one in 10 immigrant wage and salary workers was a union member in 2006. * Native-born wage and salary workers have been more likely to belong to labor unions than foreign-born wage and salary workers over the past decade. * Foreign-born wage and salary workers were underrepresented in labor unions compared to their share of all wage and salary workers, including in manufacturing, construction and mining unions. * Foreign-born wage and salary workers were overrepresented in unions compared to their share of wage and salary workers in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, wholesale and retail trade, and agriculture-related industries. The Migration Information Source Spotlight is available here.