University of Illinois at Chicago
COOK-DISSERTATION-2016.pdf (1.32 MB)

Beyond Just the Job: Chicago Worker Centers Contesting Exclusion, Organizing for Full Citizenship Rights

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posted on 2017-02-17, 00:00 authored by Jessica Dianne Cook
Based on two years of qualitative and ethnographic research of two Chicago based worker centers, the “Unity Worker Center” (UWC) and “Workers Fighting for Fairness” (WFF), I argue that these organizations are “space making” (Das Gupta 2006) organizations in the broader labor movement and society. I found that their African American and Latino immigrant members experienced exclusion from full citizenship rights in similar ways through neoliberal projects of racialized criminalization and labor market restructuring towards more downgraded work, such as that in the low wage temporary staffing industry. I argue that these worker centers facilitated their members’ inclusion into these rights and the broader labor movement, and organized from a “whole worker” and structural transformation focused model. In doing this, they went beyond the work of most unions, who concentrate primarily on rights connected to a particular workplace or industry, and only minimally on aspects of their members’ broader citizenship exclusion. My research contributions to theoretical and empirical literature on citizenship, racialized criminalization, labor market restructuring, and the U.S. labor movement.



Flores-González, Nilda


Flores-González, Nilda



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Decoteau, Claire L Bielby, William Clarno, Andrew Theodore, Nik Bada, Xóchitl

Submitted date

December 2016

Issue date