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Redefining Exploitation: Self-employed workers’ movements in garments and trash collection

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

This article examines how self-employed workers are organizing in the garments and waste collection industries in India. Although the question of who is profiting from self-employed workers’ labor is complex, the cases outlined in this paper highlight telling instances of how some self-employed workers are organizing as workers. They are fighting labor exploitation by redefining the concept to include additional exploitation axes (from the state and middle class) and forms (including sexual). In doing so, they are redefining potential solutions, including identities and material benefits, to fit their unique needs. By expanding the category of “workers” beyond those defined by a narrow focus on a standard employer-employee relationship, these movements are also fighting exclusion from earlier labor protections by increasing the number of entitled beneficiaries. These struggles provide an important corrective to contemporary analyses of labor politics that focus too heavily on the precarious nature of employer-employee relationships and too little on broader definitions of work, exploitation, and protection. These broader definitions better represent the world's mass of vulnerable workers and are being articulated from below.
TidsskriftInternational Labor and Working-Class History
Udgave nummerSpring
Sider (fra-til)107-130
StatusUdgivet - 2016

ID: 148989057