Faculty Book: Ruth Milkman

Ruth Milkman
Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat
(Wiley, 2020)

image of book: Immigrant Labor and the New PrecariatImmigration has been a contentious issue for decades, but in the 21st century it has moved to center stage, propelled by an immigrant threat narrative that blames foreign-born workers, and especially the undocumented, for the collapsing living standards of American workers.  According to that narrative, if immigration were summarily curtailed, border security established, and "illegal aliens" removed, the American Dream would be restored.

In this book, Ruth Milkman demonstrates that immigration is not the cause of economic precarity and growing inequality, as former President Trump and other promoters of the immigrant threat narrative claim. Rather, the influx of low-wage immigrants since the 1970s was a consequence of concerted employer efforts to weaken labor unions, along with neoliberal policies fostering outsourcing, deregulation, and skyrocketing inequality. 

These dynamics have remained largely invisible to the public. The justifiable anger of U.S.-born workers whose jobs have been eliminated or degraded has been tragically misdirected, with even some liberal voices recently advocating immigration restriction. This provocative book argues that progressives should instead challenge right-wing populism, redirecting workers' anger toward employers and political elites, demanding upgraded jobs for foreign-born and U.S.-born workers alike, along with public policies to reduce inequality.

Milkman is a distinguished professor of sociology at The Graduate Center and chair of the Labor Studies Department at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.

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Submitted on: FEB 10, 2021

Category: Faculty Books | Sociology