TitleThe role of the State in low-wage labor supply
NameNisbet, Elizabeth Laird (author), Salzman, Hal (chair), Defilippis, James (internal member), Rodgers, III, William M. (internal member), Van Horn, Carl E. (internal member), Appelbaum, Eileen (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectPlanning and Public Policy,
labor supply—Government policy--New York (State),
Agricultural laborers--United States,
Agricultural wages—Law and legislation--United States,
New York (State)—Emigration and immigration—Government policy
DescriptionNews stories report frequently on farm labor shortages and the calls of growers for federal government action to bolster supply with immigration policy change. The state role such intervention implies is not unusual, but it raises broader questions about the state’s contribution to labor supply through this and other policy mechanisms and about how labor supply, demand, and policy influence one another as they evolve. This dissertation answers these questions with a mixed-method study that describes the policy history and political factors shaping the structure of farm labor markets and traces the presence of policy in labor market processes in New York State. An analysis of National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) data captured trends in worker and job characteristics, showing a significant disparity between wages of undocumented and documented workers. U.S. Department of Labor records indicated that use of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program increased sharply in New York and the U.S. from 2006 to 2009 and dropped in 2010. A review of the policy structure that shapes farm labor markets highlighted the historical evolution of agricultural exemptions and other industry-specific legislative provisions across labor standards, social programs, and immigration policy that have contributed to labor market segmentation. A review of Congressional hearings showed how interest groups have used this forum to justify reshaping policy, such that political debate serves the symbolic function of communicating to policymakers the parameters grower and worker interests will accept around the state’s role in supply and worker protection, and their expectations of the state going forward. Qualitative interviews in New York State with employers, workers, non-profit agencies, and government examined the role of the state in farm labor markets in two regions, demonstrating that social programs and labor standards, immigration enforcement, and the H-2A program work separately and in concert to shape decisions of actors, and thus over time labor supply characteristics and production and employment practices. In implementation, the role of policy in markets takes on different effects and interacts with other factors, demonstrating that markets are partially constructed by the state. The role of the state is to supply (directly or indirectly), sustain and protect labor, and to serve as intermediary, with ever-changing mechanisms and results. In addition, policy can mitigate risk for employers and influence the nature of labor demand. The dissertation concludes with a review of developments in worker advocacy and policy suggestions for moving beyond the seemingly obvious and intractable problems related to farm labor. These issues are also relevant for other kinds of low-wage and contingent labor markets in which recent trends parallel the long history of farm work. The discussion of new developments and policy proposals illustrates that it is possible and important to continue searching for ways to enhance worker agency and conditions for the benefit of the agriculture industry, but also in light of the broader implications of immigration and social policy for job quality and low-wage work.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Elizabeth Laird Nisbet
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.