Sandcastles of hope? Civil society organizations and the working conditions of migrant farmworkers in North America
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This research explores whether civil society organizations (CSOs) can contribute to more effectively regulating the working conditions of temporary migrant farmworkers in North America. This dissertation unfolds in five parts. The first part of the dissertation sets out the background context. The context includes the political economy of agriculture and temporary migrant labour more broadly. It also includes the political economy of the legal regulations that govern immigration and work relations. The second part of the research builds an analytical model for studying the operation of CSOs active in working with the migrant farmworker population. The purpose of the analytical framework is to make sense of real-world examples by providing categories for analysis and a means to get at the channels of influence that CSOs utilize to achieve their aims. To this end, the model incorporates the insights from three significant bodies of literature—regulatory studies, labour studies, and economic sociology. The third part of the dissertation suggests some key strategic issues that CSOs should consider when intervening to assist migrant farmworkers, and also proposes a series of hypotheses about how CSOs can participate in the regulatory process. The fourth part probes and extends these hypotheses by empirically investigating the operation of three CSOs that are currently active in assisting migrant farm workers in North America: the Agricultural Workers Alliance (Canada), Global Workers’ Justice Alliance (USA), and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (USA). The fifth and final part draws together lessons from the empirical work and concluded that CSOs can fill gaps left by the waning power of actors, such as trade unions and labour inspectorates, as well as act in ways that these traditional actors can not.