Forschungsprojekt: Labor and the Civic Integration of Immigrant Workers

: Germany, France, the United States and United Kingdom in Comparative Perspective


Based on the work of teams of researchers in four countries, this project is a comparative study of union strategies toward immigrant workers in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and United States. The focus is on unions efforts aimed at both workplace and social integration of immigrant workers: description, explanation by way of comparative analysis, and implications for future strategies.


Adler, Lee H., Maite Tapia und Lowell Turner, 2014. Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, Frank W. Pierce Memorial Lectureship and Conference Series number 15, Ithaca: ILR Press, 210 Seiten.

Adler, Lee H., Maite Tapia und Lowell Turner, 2012. Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, Ithaka, 164 Seiten.

Weitere Informationen

Tapia, Maite; Turner, Lowell: Union Campaigns as Countermovements:



Labor markets in the global North today have reached new levels of fragmentation, with expanding low-wage workforces not benefiting from any kind of collective representation. Researchers for this project share the belief that collective action is essential to turn things around in the years ahead. Unions and other organizations of collective representation, however, will succeed only if they can overcome divisions and rally workers together in common purpose and organization. Necessary for success will be the ability to push up the low end, to give voice and bring unity to the millions of women, young workers, older workers, immigrants and migrants who face the most vulnerable conditions of employment. This is the context in which we have studied the circumstances and strategies best suited to the organization and representation of the interests of immigrant workers.


The purpose of this project is to describe and explain strategies to enforce the rights of immigrant workers in Germany, France, the UK and US, and to present a systematic four-country comparative analysis to inform mutual learning, best practice, and future research. Thus we ask the following questions: To what extent and in what ways do unions pursue strategies aimed at integrating immigrant workers at the workplace, in the life of the union, and in civil society? To what extent do national and local unions join with other social actors in coalition efforts that include immigrant advocacy groups? What are the accomplishments and limitations of specific strategic approaches? What accounts for relative success or failure, for accomplishments and limitations?


Core methods include in-depth case studies of union strategies toward immigrant workers in four countries, set into broader economic and social contexts, and examined through the lens of systematic cross-national comparative analysis. The work included researchers from across the four countries, producing four country literature reviews, hundreds of interviews with practitioners, 20 in-depth case studies, and four country summary papers. In 2011 researchers, hosts from the Hans Böckler Foundation, and union commentators from each of our countries met at a two-day workshop in Frankfurt to discuss findings, comparative analysis, and policy implications. Based on the research and discussions, we spent the next several months developing systematic comparisons both across and within countries. Nine co-authors collaborated to develop the findings into a book manuscript and a "living" website.

Darstellung der Ergebnisse

Key findings of our comparative analysis include: Traditional strategies of restriction or neglect of immigrant workers are no longer sustainable. Many of the jobs that immigrants occupy are both weakly organized and not leaving the country. Union attitudes toward immigrants in the US, UK, Germany and France have changed significantly over the past decade. Forces for change include union membership decline; recognition that immigrants are not going away and must be incorporated if labor movements are to regain lost influence; recognition that the precarious nature of the work done by many immigrant workers negatively affects the labor standards of other workers; and the pressure from immigrant workers themselves. Unions face overlapping challenges in efforts to enforce immigrant workers' rights. One is to integrate such workers where union representation is already established. Here German unions such as IG Metall and IG BCE have led the way. A more difficult challenge is to bring representation to sectors where immigrant workers lack meaningful protections. Here successful campaigns require tactics ranging from grassroots activism to coalitions and corporate campaigns.

Projektleitung und -bearbeitung


Prof. Lowell Turner
Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Prof. Lee Adler
Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations
345 Research Building


Dr. Stefan Lücking

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