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Essential Work, Disposable Workers: Migration, Capitalism and Class

A book about the massive expansion of precarious work under neoliberalism and how migrant workers are challenging the conditions of their hyper-exploitation through struggles for worker rights and justice.

Across the world we are witnessing daily the lethal effects of a rapid and scary hardening of borders, ignited and justified by manufactured fear and scarcity. In such conditions, highly exploitative ideas of “managed migration” are presented as reasonable and just.

And temporary worker programs, championed by countries like Canada and the US, are presented as an acceptable response to both acute labour shortages and ugly nationalist feelings. For this, all workers pay the price in the form of dwindling rights and diminished solidarity. This book is the result of decades of thinking, organizing and deep research on the global struggle for equality and freedom in and against an increasingly walled world. Through this immediate and up-close account, Henaway takes the reader on a journey across a familiar consumer landscape of corporate power — from Amazon and Dollarama to chicken farms and late night rideshares —offering a vivid analysis of the consequences of a system built to marginalize, exploit and divide people through the creation of exclusionary categories of belonging. 

In Essential Work, Disposable Workers, Henaway offers a counter proposal to the global border, arguing that we reject control over freedom of movement as a means to halt a race to the bottom for all working people and instead build solidarity across struggles for decent work and justice. In this moving account of a global system of hyper-exploitation, Henaway weaves stories of struggle with his own on-the-ground experience and expansive research, to explain the workings of a global system of managed precarity that affects everyone who works, albeit unequally. Written with the unique verve and insight of a committed scholar and decades-long grassroots organizer, Essential Work, Disposable Workers offers a vivid analysis to help us grasp the cruel consequences of borders and points to an alternative future.

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