Precarious employment and the worker center response
The changing job structure from traditional full-time employment to temporary work with few to no benefits has created a new challenge for labor justice in America. Employers are increasingly distancing themselves from responsibility for working conditions through non-standard, precarious employment arrangements such as subcontracting, outsourcing, use of temporary employment agencies, and independent contractors. Jobs that were once permanent and full-time with benefits are now downgraded to temporary work that is outside the scope of legal protections provided to traditional employees.
In the past thirty-five years, community based non-profit labor organizations called worker centers have emerged to address the poor working conditions of individuals in these low quality jobs. They organize low-wage, mostly immigrant workers that traditional labor groups like unions have struggled to represent either because of organizational difficulties or because of hostility towards undocumented labor. This thesis investigates how and why these organizations succeed and fail through a case study of the Workers Defense Project or Proyecto Defensa Laboral in Austin, Texas.