Paula Winicki

Organizing Despite Precarity

In this project, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork and 42 interviews to advance the literature on organizing precarious workers, while further complicating existing understandings of labor politics through a case study of a labor campaign engaging a diverse workforce of native-born Black and Latino workers—a substantial number of whom are formerly incarcerated—as well as immigrant Latino workers. I examine how workers who lack power because of their ethnoracial background, multiple state-sanctioned statuses, and their employment precarity decide whether to participate in a union campaign. Moreover, I analyze how masculinity emerged as an important theme of the project, particularly as it intersects with race. Based on my findings, I argue that contrary to much of the extant literature, precarious workers recognize their class position and show an awareness of how their particular vulnerabilities facilitate their exploitation. Yet, awareness of their class position and understanding of their shared vulnerabilities does not necessarily lead to acting collectively as a class. Status and power differences across groups within the precarious workers; their structural locations, including racialization; and their subjective understandings shape their relationships to the campaign and determine involvement.