Cover: Suburban Sweatshops: The Fight for Immigrant Rights, from Harvard University PressCover: Suburban Sweatshops in PAPERBACK

Suburban Sweatshops

The Fight for Immigrant Rights

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Product Details


$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674024045

Publication Date: 04/30/2007

Academic Trade

384 pages

Belknap Press


Suburban Sweatshops is a case study in what happens when courage and solidarity come up against against greed and indifference. I came away from it with great respect, not only for the sweatshop workers whose story it is, but for Jennifer Gordon, who emerges as a brilliant and admirably modest role model for young professionals with a conscience.—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

[An] important new book… Suburban Sweatshops is a self-reflective insider’s account of Gordon’s efforts—and of how difficult marrying law and organizing proved to be.—Scott Cummings and Ingrid Eagly, Legal Affairs

The author tells a detailed story of her involvement in the Workplace Project and the struggle to get the Republican-controlled New York state legislature and Republican Governor to pass the Unpaid Wages Prohibition Act in 1997… This is an important book in many ways. It provides a highly personal perspective on the issue of exploitation of foreign-born low-wage service workers in the United States. At the same time, because the author is not a foreign-born low-wage service worker, she is able to maintain an appropriate detachment to produce an insightful and rich discourse.—Sharon M. Lee, Ethnic and Racial Studies

[Gordon’s] book is a sobering, informative, and inspiring look at the achievements of the Workplace Project, a Long Island workers’ center that is one of the many organizations devoted to organizing poor workers around the United States.—Virginia Harabin, International Socialist Review

Gordon presents an enlightening, uplifting book that can also serve as a manual for immigrant rights activists. In an inspired use of ‘sweatshop’ as metaphor for suburban employers of undocumented immigrant workers who, like their manufacturing counterparts, flagrantly violate minimum wage, health, and safety standards, Gordon calls attention to the plight of the millions of undocumented workers.—E. Hu-DeHart, Choice

In this compelling book, Gordon combines the harrowing stories of individuals with a broad perspective on suburban economics to create a vivid analysis of immigrant labor in America… Her unflinching study raises questions about the future of immigrant rights and the causes behind the ‘disturbing renaissance of sweatshop work.’Publishers Weekly

This is a superb book. Gordon is self-critical without being defeatist or cynical, optimistic without being unrealistic or self-deceiving. She combines story and theory in a seamless web. And she writes beautifully.—Richard Abel, UCLA School of Law

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’s Suburban Sweatshops is a beautifully written, uplifting story where good—in the form of resourceful and creative advocacy involving thousands of immigrants—occasionally triumphs over the evils of a grim underground economy. In lucid prose, Gordon shows how immigrant workers courageously fought to build paths to democracy. At the same time, she offers intriguing new approaches for lawyers and organizers in the struggle for social justice.—Lani Guinier, co-author of The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

Suburban Sweatshops tackles a tough and timely topic, offers a fascinating narrative, and, most impressive, combines memoir, organizational case study, and a broad analysis of current trends in labor organizing to make a compelling case for how to do things differently. Readers will be drawn to the book for its focus on two issues of broad public concern: the place of recent immigrants in America’s workforce and the prospects for a renewed labor movement. Powerfully argued and engagingly written, this is a real contribution.—Francesca Polletta, Columbia University

An inspirational book, Suburban Sweatshops exposes the hidden underbelly of immigrant life in modern-day America, but nonetheless leaves one with a sense of hope. Gordon’s passion for her work shines through on these pages, making it a must read for anyone laboring on the side of justice.—Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

Awards & Accolades

  • Honorable Mention, 2005 Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights
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