- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: New Press, The (May 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156584517X
- ISBN-13: 978-1565845176
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor
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A provocative and alarming book that should appeal to a wide audience. -- Library Journal
An astute and powerful analysis. . . In the face of debilitated U.S. labor movement, this book offers critical insight into the present and future conditions for all workers in this country. -- Booklist
An honest look at an appalling situation. -- Kirkus Reviews
Forbidden Workers is destined to become a classic. -- The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Peter Kwong is chair of the Asian American Studies Program at Hunter College in New York and author of The New Chinatown. He has written on immigration issues for the Village Voice and The Nation.
Top customer reviews
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Mr. Kwong is a resident of New York and has close ties to the Chinese community. His solid academic scholarship combines with real-world activism to present a contemporary assessment of illegal Chinese labor. Much of the book is dedicated to then current events (early to mid 1990s), such as the well-known Golden Adventure incident and lesser-known strikes against Chinese-owned businesses, among many others. The author convincingly supplants the mainstream's stereotypical image of docile and complacent Chinese labor with a more complex and disturbing picture of a frightened, indebted and exploited workforce that is barely able to subsist on the fringes of society.
Mr. Kwong's mastery of Chinese-American history is evident throughout the book. He provides the reader with useful background material on a number of relevant events, from the Chinese Labor Exclusion Act of 1882 to the enlistment of Chinese seamen in World War II. The author helps us understand the cultural and economic factors that have prompted many Chinese-Americans to develop thriving but insular and crime-ridden Chinatowns in major cities across the U.S.
The failures of government policy and organized labor are critiqued at length. Mr. Kwong shows how capitalism has effectively co-opted the democratic institutions in this country that are supposed to help the working class. For example, the government's lack of enforcement of labor laws (including, of course, immigration policy) and the union movement's out-of-touch leadership combined with close ties to corporate management are cited as critical factors that explain why labor laws are routinely violated.
Importantly, the author reasserts the dignity of human labor, suggesting that the defense of workers' rights should not come at the risk of deportation. In fact, it is this vulnerability that allows unscrupulous employers to exploit workers with impunity. The resulting worker fear and insecurity has been a crucial factor in helping capital depress wages among all workers, Mr. Kwong explains.
In short, Mr. Kwong's important book does much to explain why the American dream is increasingly becoming a nightmare for the working class in general and particularly among illegal Chinese-Americans. But the author also suggests that a reinvigorated labor movement dedicated to grass-roots democracy can point the way to a better future. I highly recommend this book to readers interested in learning more about labor relations and the Chinese-American struggle.