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Off the Radar Screen: Unregulated Jobs in Chicago and New York City

Awarded Scholars

Annette Bernhardt, National Employment Law Project
Nikolas Theodore, University of Illinois, Chicago
Tom Gerety, New York University
Project Date: May, 2004
Award Amount:$30,000
Project Programs: Future of Work

Changes in industrial organization, institutions of labor market governance, and the composition of the workforce have combined to generate jobs and work practices that are effectively beyond the reach of regulation and public policy. In these jobs, workers are routinely subject to exploitation, enduring overtime and minimum wage violations, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and retaliation for speaking up. By its very nature, this unregulated labor market is not well understood by outsiders.

With Foundation support, Annette Bernhardt, Tom Gerety, and Nikolas Theodore will perform a study of shadow labor markets in New York and Chicago. Earlier, the researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with community organizations, immigrant worker centers, unions, government agencies, and employers to identify the industries where unregulated work is most prevalent. Now, they will carry out more in-depth interviews with workers and employers in those industries to get a better understanding of the causes of unregulated work practices. This project will lay the groundwork for a representative survey to estimate the prevalence of unregulated work in the two cities.