Labor History Seminar: Thomas Jessen Adams, University of Chicago

Friday, April 17, 2009

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Labor History Seminar

“Immigration Politics, Service Labor and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in 1970s Los Angeles”
Thomas Jessen Adams, University of Chicago
In 1971, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed into law the Arnett Act, criminalizing the employment of undocumented workers. In Southern California, the political and cultural debate surrounding the Arnett Act in particular and undocumented immigration in general, was specifically a discourse about labor and unemployment. These debates though, imagined undocumented workers taking manufacturing employment away from native-born workers. In so doing, they obscured the actual work that most undocumented immigrants were doing—low wage service work. The result was this work was rendered even more economically, culturally, and politically invisible, a development that was immensely helpful in the further growth of the low-wage service economy and its increasing commodification of everyday life.

Commentators: Will Jones, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Juan Mora-Torres, DePaul University