Articles, Chapters and Reviews

Sociological Perspectives, 2021

Co-authored with Larissa Petrucci, Ellen K. Scott, Lina Stepick, and Miriam Helfin.

Under COVID-19, low-wage service sector workers found themselves as essential workers vulnerable to intensified precarity. Based on in-depth interviews with a sample of 52 low-wage service workers interviewed first in Summer 2019 and then in the last two weeks of April 2020, we argue that COVID-19 has created new and heightened dimensions of precarity for low-wage workers. They experience 1) moments of what we call precarious stability, in which an increase in hours and predictable schedules is accompanied by unpredictability in the tasks workers are assigned, 2) increased threats to bodily integrity and 3) experiences of fear and anxiety as background conditions of work and intensified emotional labor. The impacts of COVID-19 on workers’ lives warrant an expanded conceptualization of precarity that captures the dynamic and shifting nature of precarious stability and must incorporate workers’ limited control over their bodily integrity and emotions as core components of precarious working conditions.

Journal of Peasant Studies, 2021

Building on the theory of ecological imperialism in the context of the Peruvian guano boom, this analysis explores the metabolic rift in the human relation to external nature and the corresponding corporeal rift in the destruction of human bodily existence. Guano capitalists robbed Peru of the manure deposited by seabirds, while British imperialism introduced a system of racialized expropriation (the ‘coolie trade’), referred to by Karl Marx as ‘worse than slavery.’ Previous failures to understand this historical tragedy were due to the legal forms adopted, which categorized as semi-free labor what was in fact the social murder of the workers.

Labor Studies Journal, 2019

Co-authored with Larissa Petrucci, Elle K. Scott and Camila Alvarez

A total of 16 percent of hourly workers and 36 percent of workers paid on some other basis experience unstable work schedules due to irregular, on-call, rotating, or split shifts, which negatively impact workers’ ability to manage family responsibilities, finances, and health. Primarily drawing on data from in-depth interviews conducted in Oregon in 2016, this study expands research on how workers navigate through “bad jobs” by exploring the ways in which they respond in an attempt to manage the individual impacts of precarious work arrangements. We found that workers respond to unpredictable scheduling in four ways: they acquiesce, self-advocate, quit, or directly oppose employers. Our findings highlight the “impossible choices” workers face as they negotiate prevalent, unpredictable work conditions, juggle work-life obligations, and struggle to remain employed. We conclude with fair week, work policy recommendations.

Monthly Review, 2021

Review of "Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat" (2020) by Ruth Milkman.