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When the ‘unorganizable’ organize: The collective mobilization of migrant domestic workers in London

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Publication details

JournalHuman Relations
DateAccepted/In press - 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Mar 2016
Issue number3
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)813-838
Early online date14/01/16
Original languageEnglish


The collective mobilization of migrant workers is an important issue for analysis. Three key barriers to the mobilization of migrant workers have been identified – employment conditions, which tend to prevent migrant workers coming together; the framings held by migrant workers, which marginalize an understanding of their position as that of exploited workers; and the issue of the sustainability of any mobilization. The article examines migrant domestic workers as a case in which collective mobilization appears highly unlikely. The article uses the social movement approach as a meta-theoretical framing to explore the collective mobilization of migrant domestic workers in London. As such, it analyses how the ‘unorganizable’ organize. We show that mobilization changed the framing of migrant domestic workers from ‘labourers of love’ to workers with rights. It was able to do this because it addressed the three barriers to mobilization: by creating a space for the development of communities of coping among migrant workers; by using politicized learning; and by using participative democracy and collective leadership development, tied to links with formal organizations. The article argues for the importance of social scientists examining the creative processes by which migrant workers move towards collective mobilization, and for the utility of a social movement approach in this process.

    Research areas

  • collective mobilization, communities of coping, domestic work, migrant workers, social movement, unorganizable

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