Low-Wage Worker Organizing and Advocacy in the USA: Comparing Domestic Workers and Day Laborers.

Milkman, Ruth.

In Gendering Struggles against Informal and Precarious Work (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley. 2018.


This chapter compares and contrasts organizing and advocacy among US domestic workers and day laborers. These two occupations share many features: both are ill-suited to conventional unionism; immigrants, many of them unauthorized, have long dominated the workforce in both; both are entry-level jobs at the bottom of the labor market (although both are also internally stratified); and both have been the focus of advocacy and organizing at both the local and national level in recent decades. Yet, there are also significant contrasts between the two. First and foremost, women are the vast majority of domestic workers while men predominate among day laborers. Another striking difference is that while domestic labor is hidden from public view inside private households, day laborers are regularly on display on street corners and other public spaces. This chapter explores the effects of such similarities and differences on the collective action repertoires of day laborers and domestic workers. In both cases, many workers have individualistic, entrepreneurial ambitions, a formidable organizing challenge; yet, orientation does not necessarily impede and sometimes even facilitates collective action. Day laborers’ demands are largely economic, and these (predominantly male) workers often hope to return to their countries of origin; domestic workers (overwhelmingly female) are more interested in improved opportunities within the US. Although women are overrepresented in the leadership of both domestic workers’ and day laborers’ organizations, male day laborers and female domestic workers have distinct experiences and aspirations, and put forward different types of demands, generating gendered collective action repertoires.

Much of what is available in the Library is publicly available and can be accessed through a link on this website. However, most academic journal articles reside beyond a paywall and only the abstracts are included here.