Jornaleros Engaged in a Multidimensional Struggle: A Critical Ethnography with Day Laborers in Las Vegas

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Castrejon, Jorge Adrian
critical ethnography; day labor work; exploitation; jornaleros; migration; testimonio; critical ethnography; day labor work; exploitation; jornaleros; migration; testimonio; Ethnic Studies; Labor Economics; Public Policy; Race and Ethnicity; Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies
thesis / dissertation description
Day labor work has spread across the entire Unite States as part of the secondary labor market, or as Cherrie Moraga describes it- survival work. Day laborers in Las Vegas, Nevada have become a significant part of this trend in the Southwest, where the highest rate of day laborers work, and for which little community and scholarly work has been produced. The National Day Labor Survey, the most comprehensive study with day laborers, reports that the day labor market is rife with abuse and violations of worker rights. But, the exploitation of this predominantly migrant workforce would not be possible if this workforce had the same rights as U.S. citizen workers in the primary labor market, and to some extent in other sectors of the secondary labor market. Undocumented migrant workers from Mexico and Central America comprise 75% of the labor force in this labor market. Thus, this study seeks to explore the significance and role of immigration status and the ways in which it contributes to the hardships of day labor work for migrant workers. Additionally, the study examines the manner in which day laborers in Las Vegas negotiate their wages and other terms of employment and how these terms conflict and/or coincide with labor laws. Also, this study explores employer treatment of day laborers, and when abuse and labor law violations occur, how day laborers manage and respond to the mistreatment and law violations. Furthermore, the project seeks to advocate for migrant worker rights by shedding light on other hardships associated to day labor work and on the relationship between migrant workers and employers in this unsanctioned and exploitable labor market. Lastly, this project challenges the mainstream misconception that migrant workers, especially those from Mexico and Central America, are “poorly educated” and “low-skilled” and the ways in which these deficiency frameworks sanction and contribute to the exploitation of this workforce while perpetuating xenophobia and discrimination. This study employs testimonio and ethnographic methodologies at an informal hiring site, la esquina, in Southeast Las Vegas where jornaleros gather daily to seek work. The National Day Labor Survey, Critical Race and Latino Critical Theory, and Chicana feminist thought inform this study.