|Title||Workers Who Organize in the Public Square: A Comparison of Mexican and US Organizing Models – Presented at “Labor and Global Solidarity – The US, China and Beyond,” conf. org. by the Labor and Labor Movements Section of the Amer. Sociological Association|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Year of Publication||2013|
|Authors||Sarmiento, Hugo, Tilly, Chris, Toledo, Enrique de la Garz, and Ramíre, José Luis Gayos|
|Keywords||day laborers, domestic work, gardening, immigrants, informal workers, Latinos, Mexico, organizing, street vendors|
[Excerpt] Informal work, that which is unregulated by law or is beyond the reach of law, employs the majority of workers in Mexico and increasingly more workers in the United States. Although some informal workers earn high incomes, the majority suffer from inadequate compensation or from lack of economic security and basic rights. As a result, it is not a surprise that informal workers are organizing themselves to reclaim their rights in various economic sectors of the two countries. What is surprising, at least initially, is that in each of the two countries groups of workers in the public square organizing perhaps the most powerful informal worker organizations.We refer to street vendors in Mexico and day laborers (workers, mainly immigrant Latinos a majority of whom are from Mexico, who look for short-term work in construction, gardening and domestic work) in the United States. In some cases they work in open public space (public streets and sidewalks), in other cases they solicit work in the same environment (on street corners or parking lots). One would expect such workers would experience a lack of personal safety, abuse from law enforcement agencies, and ferocious competition from other workers who do not face any significant barriers to entering this labor market. All of these problems do exist, yet workers in these sectors have formed powerful and effective organizations. In this paper, we explore, and explain to the extent it is possible, the sources, forms, reach and limits of this unexpected power. We situate our analysis in the political economy of the two countries, the principal site for street vending in Mexico, Mexico City, and the principal city for day laborers in the United States, Los Angeles, California.