The International Sociological Association Forum will take place in Vienna, July 11-14, 2016. If you have not been to ISA, it is a remarkable conference experience. It is truly global, though inflected with the particular location (so the Vienna Forum will have a particularly strong European presence). Unlike, say, the American Sociological Association, each Section of the ISA has a set of sessions for the full duration of the conference, so you can stick with one topic area for the entire time (or shop around). I have gone to the stream organized by the Labor Movements Section (Research Council 44, or RC44 for short) at the last two ISAs, and have found it a remarkable learning experience. As in past RC44s, RC44 will also be organizing some sessions with local labor activists, to take place July 10 before the rest of the meetings start.
RC44 has issued a Call for Papers for its sessions: http://www.isa-sociology.org/forum-2016/rc/rc.php?n=RC44
Proposals due by September 30!
Session proposals have already been selected, and paper proposals must be pegged to a particular session. Let me commend to your attention two sessions on informal and precarious work and worker organizing, below. But I recommend that you take a look at the full range of sessions as well.
Using Global Comparisons to Understand 21st Century Labor Movements among Informal Workers (Rina Agarwala & Chris Tilly, organizers)
In the 20th century, massive labor movements transformed work to regulate and protect it.. But in the century’s closing decades, firm subcontracting, government deregulation, and large-scale migration flows contributed to a shift of large areas of work outside labor laws. Traditional labor unions have had difficulty organizing such workers, and have lost density and power. Now new labor movements of informal workers have increasingly taken up the slack, building associational and symbolic power.
Cross-national comparisons have greatly advanced our understanding of formally protected workers’ labor movements . Recent research on informal worker organizing, however, has largely been limited to country-level case studies. This session aims to push research on contemporary informal workers’ movements forward by examining cross-cutting themesacross multiple countries and sectors. The panel seeks to address the following questions:
1. What are commonalities and differences in how informal workers’ movements (across countries and sectors) organize, win, and fail?
2. What are commonalities and differences in who is joining and leading these movements in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, migration status?
3. What are the limits and potential of these new forms of organizing at the national and transnational levels?
Gender, Precarious Work, and Labor Organizing (Rina Agarwala and Ruth Milkman, organizers)
Gender is a defining feature of precarious and informal work in the 21st century. Women have long been disproportionately concentrated in temporary, casual, seasonal, part-time, and contract work. Recently, men’s jobs also have begun to resemble those once relegated to women, as traditional forms of employment security as well as labor rights and legal protections have been eroded. A growing literature examines the gendered dimension of these expanding types of work, but the gender dynamics of collective efforts to challenge precarity and informality have received far less attention.
This session will focus on the relationship of gender to collective action repertoires among precarious/informal workers, and on the ways in which the organizations they have are gendered. In contrast to traditional labor unions, such organizations are disproportionately led by women, address concerns traditionally associated with women workers, and adopt strategies that appeal to women. This is often the case even when the workers involved are predominantly male. The session will explore these new forms of organizing in the United States, South Africa, India, and South Korea. We will center the session on two key questions:
a. How does precarious/informal worker organizing vary cross-nationally among countries with distinct political regimes, gender arrangements, trade union structures, and levels of economic development?
b. What is the role of gender in structuring work and organizing strategies among precarious/informal workers, and why have organizations of these workers been led disproportionately by women?