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Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism

Immanuel Ness

Publication Year: 2011

Political scientist Immanuel Ness thoroughly investigates the use of guest workers in the United States, the largest recipient of migrant labor in the world. Ness argues that the use of migrant labor is increasing in importance and represents despotic practices calculated by key U.S. business leaders in the global economy to lower labor costs and expand profits under the guise of filling a shortage of labor for substandard or scarce skilled jobs. _x000B__x000B_Drawing on ethnographic field research, government data, and other sources, Ness shows how worker migration and guest worker programs weaken the power of labor in both sending and receiving countries. His in-depth case studies of the rapid expansion of technology and industrial workers from India and hospitality workers from Jamaica reveal how these programs expose guest workers to employers' abuses and class tensions in their home countries while decreasing jobs for American workers and undermining U.S. organized labor. _x000B__x000B_Where other studies of labor migration focus on undocumented immigrant labor and contend immigrants fill jobs that others do not want, this is the first to truly advance understanding of the role of migrant labor in the transformation of the working class in the early twenty-first century. Questioning why global capitalists must rely on migrant workers for economic sustenance, Ness rejects the notion that temporary workers enthusiastically go to the United States for low-paying jobs. Instead, he asserts the motivations for improving living standards in the United States are greatly exaggerated by the media and details the ways organized labor ought to be protecting the interests of American and guest workers in the United States.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

This book is the end result of five years of research on guest workers and transnational labor rooted fundamentally in my endeavor to understand the transformation of labor markets and worker representation from 2005 to 2010. In this historical era of neoliberal capitalism, individualism, and egoism, ...

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Introduction: Guest Workers of the World

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pp. 1-12

Much of the present debate on immigration policy revolves around the failure and unintended consequences of utterly inconsistent U.S. government policies to establish and regulate the flow of authorized and unauthorized migrants. Ineffectual regulatory policies have bifurcated migrant workers into two groups—undocumented laborers and guest workers. ...

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1. Migration and Class Struggle

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pp. 13-31

For about twenty-five years, since passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986, more and more U.S. businesses have been relying on a system of migrant labor that involves guest workers. A guest worker is a foreign laborer temporarily authorized to work in a host country with the knowledge and acquiescence of that country. ...

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2. Political Economy of Migrant Labor in U.S, History: Fabricating a Migration Policy for Business

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pp. 32-60

In a sweeping analysis of U.S. history from the colonial era to the early twenty-first century, historian Aristides Zolberg challenges as “mythology” the prevalent view that the United States is an open and welcoming country. Contrary to the conventional historical narrative, Zolberg asserts, in A Nation by Design, ...

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3. India's Global and Internal Labor Migration and Resistance: A Case Study of Hyderabad

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pp. 61-85

On September 29, 2005, Indian unions waged a general strike to protest a national government plan to privatize airline, railroad, and banking industries. The strike was a blow to foreign and domestic investors who had been pushing the Congress Party–Left Front coalition government to privatize India’s transportation network. ...

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4. Temporary Labor Migration and U.S. and Foreign-Born Worker Resistance

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pp. 86-110

As the Internet is used more and more as a medium of communication in the United States, we are entering a new era of collective action at “the point of production” that is growing in significance to workers as a form of resistance. The practice of organizing at the “point of production” is what socialist labor unionists consider the “purest form of unionism.” ...

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5. The Migration of Low-Wage Jamaican Guest Workers

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pp. 111-149

Every March, as the winter storms turn into spring breezes on the U.S. mainland, the temperature in the Caribbean islands becomes scorching hot. Right after spring break at U.S. high schools, colleges, and universities, the Caribbean tourist season comes to a close, business slows, ...

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6. Who Can Organize? Trade Unions, Worker Insurgency, Labor Power

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pp. 150-178

The appearance of the modern guest work program in the United States is in many ways an extension of the long-standing labor migration policies of the early twentieth century. But it is also a crucial aspect of the neoliberal globalization policies that have unfolded since the 1990s. ...


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pp. 179-190


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pp. 191-210


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pp. 211-217

Further Reading, About the Author, Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093371
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036279

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The Working Class in American History
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OCLC Number: 759036587
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Foreign workers -- United States.
  • Labor market -- United States.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Economic aspects.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy.
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