The SEIU Examined

Lydia Savage (Geography, University of Southern Maine) and I are preparing an edited book on the recent history and future challenges of the SEIU. It is the first book to examine this union comprehensively and critically. You can take a peek at the book’s content and contributors here – SEIU Book. The University of Illinois Press will publish the book sometime in 2015.

July 26, 2014 by Luis LM Aguiar

McAlevey book on the SEIU

Recently I read Jane McAlevey’s book on her experience of doing union work as a SEIU leader in a Las Vegas Local representing health care employees. It is an engaging book for its discussion of organizing in a right-to-work state and for her views on the SEIU’s HQ role in the campaigns she mounted. For more see my comments on Jane McAlevey’s book.

January 30, 2014 by Luis LM Aguiar

My ‘Book of the Year’ for 2012

In the spirit of endings and beginnings that this time of year brings forth in most everyone, whether it be in relation to best of the year lists or resolutions for the New Year, I’d like to offer my own suggestion for book of 2012. This of course isn’t ‘THE’ book of the year, but rather the book I found most illuminating from those I read in the past year. So, here it goes: They Saved the Crops by Don Mitchell (University of Georgia 2012) gets my vote. It is a wonderful account of the rise and fall of the Bracero programme on the West coast of the US (primarily California) and agri-business’ role in organizing to maintain the programme by, amongst other things, convincing governments at all levels that locals weren’t interested and/or available for agricultural work in the region. The Bracero programme is long gone. However, employers’ arguments – especially in agriculture – that they need foreign, status-less workers to do the work locals won’t or aren’t available to, remains very much in the media and political scapes of agri-business.

I also like Mitchell’s book for another reason: his archival research and ability to construct engaging and politically relevant narratives from a multitude of primary sources. I have recently done archival research for the first time in my career, and now find myself challenged by having to reconstruct the history of the SEIU and its views on the Cold War in the 1980s from letters, memos, notes, reports, news clippings, etc. The task is immense and the opportunity to get this history wrong is high. No wonder I’m back to reading They Saved the Crops, once again!

January 9, 2013 by Luis LM Aguiar

CRIMT International Conference, October 25-27, 2012

This weekend I’m participating in a timely and stimulating conference on union futures organized by CRIMT and held at HEC in Montréal. The programme is terrific and I look forward to an engaging set of presentations (including mine, I hope) and discussion. For more information on the conference see the following web link –

October 23, 2012 by Luis LM Aguiar

CRIMT visiting researcher from July to August

We are pleased to announce that Luis L.M. Aguiar will be a CRIMT visiting researcher from July to August.

Luis L.M. Aguiar is associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus. Dr. Aguiar’s work focuses on building cleaners and the organizing attempts to unionize them internationally. While at the CRIMT, he will continue to research and write on his current SSHRC funded study of the SEIU’s set up of a global division to partner with unions elsewhere to organize workers, including building cleaners. The idea of ‘partnership’ between the SEIU and other unions, as well as the SEIU Justice for Janitors model to organizing cleaners beyond the US, are especially interesting to him. Luis Aguiar has published several articles on cleaners and has a co-edited book called “The Dirty Work of Neoliberalism” (Blackwell 2006). A book proposal on the contemporary SEIU is with Temple University Press. Even though it’s the summer months, he will be happy to exchange on common research issues with CRIMT researchers (profs and students) working on union organizing and renewal.

Please do not hesitate to get in contact with Luis during his stay with us.

Luis’ office will be in the CRIMT suite at Université de Montréal (3744 Jean-Brillant).

Phone : 514-343-6111 poste 10467
Office : UdeM, pavillon 3744, Jean-Brillant, office 411-10

We wish him a very stimulating stay with us! Please make him feel most welcome.

Gregor Murray,
CRIMT Director (Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work)

July 8, 2011 by Luis LM Aguiar

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Recently I attended a conference on the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its history and expansion into the Pacific Rim. There were many interesting issues discussed at the conference by the various participants.

However, I felt wanting at the end of the three day event. I left feeling that the crux of the matter was never raised and contemplated. That is, can the ILO reinvent itself at this moment of global economic crisis to do politics beyond building accommodating structures for labour to ease into capital’s demands and priorities in an outdate corporative move?

In other words, given the current global political economy and the global crisis, there is a chance for the ILO to do its work differently and to positively push back on neoliberalism by acknowledging that it ought to no longer function neoliberally if it hopes to make a significant difference to workers’ lives across the globe.

This wasn’t at all discussed nor was there a discussion of the institutional changes afoot to revamp the organization into 21st century relevant and representative of the global working class’ issues and aspirations. Without such a discussion one is left to rely on history. And, the history of the ILO – especially in times of capitalist crisis – has been to support existing exploitative forces and disciplining workers through its various structures and programmes. Is the ILO, then, a case of “plus ca change, plus”…

February 14, 2011 by Luis LM Aguiar

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