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Suburban Sweatshops

Suburban Sweatshops

The Fight for Immigrant Rights

Jennifer Gordon

ISBN 9780674024045

Publication date: 04/30/2007

Jorge Bonilla is hospitalized with pneumonia from sleeping at the restaurant where he works, unable to afford rent on wages of thirty cents an hour. Domestic worker Yanira Juarez discovers she has labored for six months with no wages at all; her employer lied about establishing a savings account for her. We live in an era of the sweatshop reborn.

In 1992 Jennifer Gordon founded the Workplace Project to help immigrant workers in the underground suburban economy of Long Island, New York. In a story of gritty determination and surprising hope, she weaves together Latino immigrant life and legal activism to tell the unexpected tale of how the most vulnerable workers in society came together to demand fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect from employers. Immigrant workers--many undocumented--won a series of remarkable victories, including a raise of thirty percent for day laborers and a domestic workers' bill of rights. In the process, they transformed themselves into effective political participants.

Gordon neither ignores the obstacles faced by such grassroots organizations nor underestimates their very real potential for fundamental change. This revelatory work challenges widely held beliefs about the powerlessness of immigrant workers, what a union should be, and what constitutes effective lawyering. It opens up exciting new possibilities for labor organizing, community building, participatory democracy, legal strategies, and social justice.


  • A genuinely outstanding book. There is no better account of the dilemmas and potentialities of organizing and lawyering on behalf of poor immigrant workers in today's America. Many people extol 'participatory democracy' and call for building labor and community organizations from the bottom up. But we have few richly detailed descriptions about the actual creation and operation of such an organization, fewer still by a brilliantly reflective participant observer, and none by an author with Gordon's gifts as storyteller and analyst. Brimming with both practical and theoretical insights, Suburban Sweatshops will be widely read.

    —William E. Forbath, University of Texas Law School


  • Jennifer Gordon is Associate Professor at Fordham School of Law and a former MacArthur Fellow.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 5-1/8 x 8 inches
  • Belknap Press