Organizing the Unorganisable: Innovative Forms of Collective Action among Migrant Workers in the UK

University of York
Start date

Thursday, 6 Dec 2018, 16:15

End date

Thursday, 6 Dec 2018, 17:30

International Institute of Social Studies
Joyce Jiang
Joyce Jiang

Organizing the Unorganisable: Innovative Forms of Collective Action among Migrant Workers in the UK by dr. Joyce Jiang a Lecturer in Human Resource at the University of York, United Kingdom


Migrant workers in the UK are largely concentrated in low-skilled sectors that involve high levels of exploitation and low rates of unionization.
Given these points, the potential for collective mobilization among migrant workers in the UK is an issue of considerable importance.
Three key barriers to the mobilization of migrant workers have been identified – employment conditions, which tend to prevent migrant workers coming together; the framings held by migrant workers, which marginalise an understanding of their position as that of exploited workers; and the issue of the sustainability of any mobilisation.
The lecture examines migrant domestic workers (MDWs) as a case in which collective mobilization appears highly unlikely.
Despite the tendency to see MDWs as ‘unorganisable’ in terms of formal forms of union organizing, MDWs have collectively mobilized in London through Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW), in a non-traditional associational manner.
It was able to do this because it addressed the three barriers to mobilization: by creating a space for the development of communities of coping among migrant workers; by using politicized art learning; and by using participative democracy and collective leadership development, tied to links with formal organisations. I argue that J4DW represents a creative associational 
model of organizing that may be sustainable at least in to the medium term. The case of J4DW also suggests that there are likely to be real opportunities for participatory art to play an part in any growth of organizing for marginalized and powerless workers.

About the speaker

Dr Joyce Jiang is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Sociology of Work at the York Management School, University of York, UK.
Her research areas include migration and globalization
, trade unionism, social movement, politicized art, as well as art-based research methods.
She has a particular interest in innovative forms of organizing among migrant workers who are embedded in flexible and precarious economy.
Her research takes an ethnographic approach that involves the use of photography and video.
She is on the editorial board of the journal Work, Employment and Society.