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Worker centers: defending labor standards for migrant workers in the informal economy


  • Nik Theodore
  • Abel Valenzuela
  • Edwin Meléndez


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of day labor worker centers in improving wages and working conditions of migrant casual workers in the USA. Design/methodology/approach - The paper reports the results of a survey of worker center executive directors and senior staff, with particular attention to the ways in which centers maintain wage rates, allocate jobs, and redress grievances. Findings - Day labor worker centers are now an important presence in construction industry casual labor markets, performing HRM functions that benefit employers and workers. Research limitations/implications - The research was undertaken during a time when the US construction industry was enjoying an expansion. It is unclear what a macroeconomic downturn might mean for the effectiveness of worker centers to maintain labor standards. Practical implications - Conditions of instability and the violation of basic labor standards that occur in casual labor markets in the USA exist in other countries as well. Day labor worker centers might be a model intervention that could apply in other contexts. Originality/value - The paper presents results from the first national survey of day labor worker centers. It highlights the key activities of these emerging labor market institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Nik Theodore & Abel Valenzuela & Edwin Meléndez, 2009. "Worker centers: defending labor standards for migrant workers in the informal economy," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 30(5), pages 422-436, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijmpps:v:30:y:2009:i:5:p:422-436

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    Cited by:

    1. Walter Nicholls, 2016. "Politicizing Undocumented Immigrants One Corner at a Time: How Day Laborers Became a Politically Contentious Group," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 299-320, March.
    2. Edwin J. Meléndez & M. Anne Visser & Nik Theodore & Abel Valenzuela Jr., 2014. "Worker Centers and Day Laborers’ Wages," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 95(3), pages 835-851, September.


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