Marginal Workers

How Legal Fault Lines Divide Workers and Leave Them without Protection

195 pages

September, 2013

ISBN: 9781479823581



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Ruben J. Garcia is Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law.

All books by Ruben J. Garcia

Undocumented and authorized immigrant laborers, female workers, workers of color, guest workers, and unionized workers together compose an enormous and diverse part of the labor force in America. Labor and employment laws are supposed to protect employees from various workplace threats, such as poor wages, bad working conditions, and unfair dismissal. Yet as members of individual groups with minority status, the rights of many of these individuals are often dictated by other types of law, such as constitutional and immigration laws. Worse still, the groups who fall into these cracks in the legal system often do not have the political power necessary to change the laws for better protection.

In Marginal Workers, Ruben J. Garcia demonstrates that when it comes to these marginal workers, the sum of the law is less than its parts, and, despite what appears to be a plethora of applicable statutes, marginal workers are frequently lacking in protection. To ameliorate the status of marginal workers, he argues for a new paradigm in worker protection, one based on human freedom and rights.


  • "At a moment of growing unrest around work relations, this book is a breath of fresh air. Garcia offers an analysis of the possibilities and challenges of work law reform that is rich and nuanced. The book succeeds in bringing together principles of workers’ rights with the realities of today’s economy. Garcia masterfully weaves together vivid stories about workplace settings with thought-provoking ideas about legal boundaries, policy and law reform. Garcia is simultaneously practical and a visionary. Garcia is an experienced and engaged scholar and advocate and Marginal Workers holds the promise of revitalizing political and academic discussions across multiple disciplinary fields. Marginal Workers will be of immense value to anyone interested in the future of employment and labor law. The book will serve thinkers, activists and reformers for many years to come."

    —Orly Lobel

  • "Ruben Garcia’s Marginal Workers moves the bar on workers’ rights advocacy. This important, synthesizing work should reach legal, policy, and activist communities throughout the United States. Garcia illuminates the interstices of a statutory and regulatory system meant to protect employees, but which leaves millions of low-wage workers exposed to workplace abuse. He does not rest with analyzing the problem; he offers ideas and proposals for relaunching workers’ rights from a platform of first principles, not transient policy preferences."

    —Lance Compa

  • "In Marginal Workers, Ruben Garcia goes further than any previous work in describing the various ways in which [U.S. labor and employment laws] fail to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the country."

    JOTWELL: Worklaw

  • "Advanced readers will appreciate the survey of alternative strategies....recommended."


  • "Garcia shows convincingly how these apparently disparate groups of workers are all subjected to exclusionary and exploitative employment practices.  Particularly valuable is his emphasis on labour rights that go beyond the ‘core’ International Labour Organization rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining towards universal rights that include all workers, regardless of their union or citizenship status.”

    Work, Employment, and Society