Ghost Workers in an Interconnected World: Going Beyond the Dichotomies of Domestic Immigration and Labor Laws

Beginning with the September 11, 2001 (“9/11 “) terrorist attacks, the labor movement’s plans to organize immigrant workers and achieve immigration reform have met serious challenges. After 9/11, the political climate surrounding immigrants put the AFL-CIO s hopes for legislative reform on hold, because of socially perceived connections between immigrants and terrorism. Then, in a March 2002 decision titled Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, the U.S. Supreme Court held that undocumented immigrant workers could not collect back pay under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when their rights to join unions are violated. According to the Court, back pay for undocumented workers would trench upon the employer sanctions regime expressed in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. In this Article, Professor Garcia analyzes the challenges facing the labor movement and immigrant workers from several perspectives. The Hoffman decision raises questions about the effectiveness of domestic labor law for all workers, as well as international human rights issues. Before the Hoffman decision, immigrant worker organizing took place in a legal environment that was at best indifferent, if not hostile, to the rights of immigrants and all workers. The Article addresses the effects the Hoffman decision and the post 9/11 climate have had on immigrant worker organizing and immigration reform. Then, Professor Garcia discusses reforms that could ameliorate the impact that Hoffman has had on immigrant workers’ rights, and the likelihood those reforms will be enacted. This Article concludes that an integrated vision of labor and immigration law reform is necessary in light of an increasingly globally interconnected society.