Sunday, April 30, 2006

New Labor Issues

May 1 is traditionally a date to call attention to labor issues, but I feel like starting a day early. In today's Washington Post, Anthony Shadid writes about Dubai, including among other elements the role and position of guest workers in the city. Over at 'Aqoul, Tomscud posts some comments on the piece, noting in the process previous posts on Gulf labor issues by Eerie and Top Secret Anonymous Guy.

I won't be turning up in the Gulf until February or so, but I have talked to a few well-educated and liberal people from the region, and one thing I've noticed is that while many are aware of the plight of migrant workers, they don't seem to consider it with the same intensity as they do the oppression of Arabs by non-Arabs in the region despite the geographic proximity. The guest workers, prevalent as they are, still seem to represent an Other, at least from the few conversations I've had on the subject. I relate this tomorrow's planned protest among Latino workers in the United States, for a key part of that movement is about indicating the Latinos are already here as an integral part of society, and not just an Other stereotyped as illegal migrant workers regarding whom We need to set a policy.

It used to be that key labor issues were about the abuse of employees which developed in relation to industrialization. These continue in many areas of the world, and with a declining labor movement in the United States could easily become prevalent in this country again, as well. However, in an age of increasing human mobility, it's also worth looking at transnational labor diasporas and their place within the nation-states which host them as an important new field where we need to define some expectations and understandings.


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