A LIBRARIAN AT EVERY TABLE
December 14, 2004. No. 234.
Sources & Sites for Community Building.
CONTINGENT WORKERS, DAY LABORERS AND LIBRARIES
Day labor, the practice of searching for work in open-air, informal markets such as street corners or in formal temp agencies, has become an increasingly visible and important means of securing employment for a broad segment of immigrant, primarily male, displaced workers. The National Employment Law Project, Nonstandard Worker Project seeks to ensure that all workers receive the full benefits of labor and employment laws.
The work of Bruce Jensen provides guidance for libraries to assist these workers:
Bruce Jensen, Service to day laborers: a job libraries have left undone.
Reference & User Services Quarterly 41 (Spring 2002) p. 228-33.
They present an increasingly prominent public face all around the country, and yet they are flatly ignored by most libraries. It's hard to imagine a more information-impoverished constituency than immigrant day laborers. For a number of economic, linguistic, legal, and cultural reasons, the jornaleros who gather on sidewalks and the parking lots of hardware stores each morning to scramble for job offers are effectively shut out from essential services and information sources that most of us take for granted.
See also Jensen's Library Service to Day Laborers: Biblio/webliography
But the problems faced by contingent workers are world wide. This Tuesday is a collaborative effort of dozens of groups collaborating on a transnational platform around the struggles of migrant and contingent workers from different parts of the world. The neoliberal global economy confronts us with a more flexible and transnational capitalism. “Lean production” and privatization rely on cheap manual labor, outsourcing and "maquiladora" work. “Precariousness” characterizes a political context which traps workers in a downward spiral of declining wages, job insecurity, decreasing democratic rights and exploitation based on race and gender discrimination. Migrant and contingent workers, once unwitting participants in this globalized transformation of labor, are responding to the unique conditions they face.