American Sociological Association

Mutual Aid Networks: Informal Shop Floor Organizing among Mexican Migrant Construction Workers in San Diego

Labor scholarship overwhelmingly continues to frame the value of migrants’ social network ties by successful or unsuccessful incorporation into formal sectors of the host economy. Within this context, migrant social network ties are commonly viewed as positive only when they lead to union-building efforts. The current study extends the social network analysis to include informal resistance and struggle. Based on ethnographic research among Mexican migrant drywallers in the San Diego construction industry, I argue that migrant workers draw on social network ties to craft less obvious and complex alternative organizing strategies to resist labor flexibility and casualization. Groups of drywallers, which I term collective cuadrillas, use social network ties not only as an impetus to improve workplace conditions but also to convene collectively on the shop floor to alleviate fierce competition among workmates and rid the production process of hierarchal work structures for more democratically managed job practices.


Diego Avalos