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

Awarded Scholars:
Annette Bernhardt, National Employment Law Project
James DiFilippis, Baruch College, City University of New York
Project Date:
Jun 2005
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Future of Work

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


Since June 2004, Annette Bernhardt of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and James DeFilippis of Baruch College have conducted interviews with community organizations, immigrant worker centers, unions, government agencies, and employers in Chicago and New York to identify the industries where unregulated work is most prevalent and get a better understanding of the causes of unregulated work practices. They found that unregulated jobs are widespread in many industries, including construction, textiles and food manufacturing, supermarkets, restaurants, and home health care. Now, with a new grant from the Foundation, Bernhardt and DeFilippis will conduct a series of case studies, examining the firm-level and structural conditions that are generating unregulated jobs.  They will explore both the demand and supply side of the unregulated labor market, seeking to understand why some firms cross the line into the shadow labor market whereas others do not, and determining the characteristics that lead some laborers into these work arrangements. The investigators will prepare policy reports for both academic and practitioner audiences.


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