Associate Professor of Labor Relations, Law & History, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
379 Ives Faculty Building
Ithaca, NY 14853
Areas of Expertise & Civic InvolvementsGleeson’s research focuses on workplace rights, the experiences of immigrant workers, and the role of advocacy organizations in holding government bureaucracies accountable. Her work has been published in a range of journals including Latino Studies, Law & Social Inquiry, Law & Society Review, International Migration, and The American Journal of Sociology. Gleeson’s first book, “Conflicting Commitments: The Politics of Enforcing Immigrant Worker Rights in San Jose and Houston,” was published in 2012 by Cornell University Press. She is currently working on a second book that examines the promises and failures of U.S. labor and employment law, the challenges low-wage workers face when they come forward to file a claim, and their experiences in fighting for justice.
SSN Key Findings, October 2016
SSN Key Findings, October 2013
"Leveraging Health Capital at the Workplace: An Examination of Health Reporting Behavior among Latino Immigrant Restaurant Workers" Social Science & Medicine 75, no. 12 (2012): 2291-2298.
Draws on 33 interviews with kitchen staff employed in the mainstream restaurant industry in San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas to argue that workers must consider complex power relationships at work in weighing the advantages of calling in sick, using protective equipment, seeking medical care, or filing a workers’ compensation claim. These decisions implicate direct and opportunity costs – such as risk of job loss and missed opportunities for advancement – and workers consequently leverage their health capital to meet their economic needs, to assert their autonomy at the workplace, and to ultimately reject the stigma of illness and injury.
"Assessing the Scope of Immigrant Organizations: Official Undercounts and Actual Underrepresentation" (with Irene Bloemraad). ). Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42, no. 2 (2012): 344-368.
Examines the official scope and actual coverage of immigrant civil society in seven California cities for four immigrant-origin communities (Indian, Mexican, Portuguese, and Vietnamese) using an official database of registered 501(c)3 organizations and interviews with 160 key informants and organizational leaders. Our findings carry important implications for resource inequalities and advocacy capacity in minority communities, underscoring the need for further research on the vitality of immigrant civil society.
"When Do Papers Matter? An Institutional Analysis of Undocumented Life in the United States" (with Roberto G. Gonzales). International Migration 50, no. 4 (2012): 1-19.
Draws on over 200 in-depth interviews to argue that there is a stark difference between how schools encourage undocumented youth to view themselves as equal members of U.S. society and how undocumented workers are marginalized in the workplace. We find that whereas schools render immigration status irrelevant for undocumented students, undocumented workers must develop a particular set of survival skills that help them live and work successfully in the United States without being detected while also erecting a barrier between themselves and any additional rights they may be afforded.
Conflicting Commitments: The Politics of Enforcing Immigrant Worker Rights in San Jose and Houston (Cornell University Press, 2012).
Examines two cities – San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas – with very different approaches to addressing the exploitation of immigrant workers – both involving the strategic coordination of a range of bureaucratic brokers, but in strikingly different ways. Drawing on the real life accounts of ordinary workers, federal, state, and local government officials, community organizers, and consular staff, Gleeson argues that local political contexts matter for protecting undocumented workers in particular.
"Labor Rights for All? The Role of Undocumented Immigrant Status for Worker Claims-Making" Law & Social Inquiry 35, no. 3 (2010): 561-602.
Uses forty-one interviews with both documented and undocumented Latino restaurant workers in San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas, to identify three common narratives that undocumented workers provide to justify not making claims on workplace protection. These include 1) an ever-present fear of deportation that inhibits any formal confrontation, 2) a particularly pragmatic and short-term understanding of their working life in the United States, which their working conditions temporary and endurable, 3) a sense of belonging in the U.S. based on an extreme work ethic.
"From Rights to Claims: The Role of Civil Society in Making Rights Real for Vulnerable Workers" Law & Society Review 43, no. 3 (2009): 669-700.
Examines the contextual factors driving legal mobilization of workers in the United States through an analysis of national origin discrimination charges under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (2000–2005). Consistent with previous studies, this analysis confirms that high unemployment levels and weak labor protections promote legal mobilization, and that civil society plays a positive role in promoting claims-making, especially in places with a larger vulnerable workforce.
Talks and Briefings
"Immigration Policies Hurt Immigrant Families More Than They Help," (with Leisy Abrego), Immigration Reform: A System for the 21st Century, Rice University Baker Institute's Latin America Initiative Immigration Research Project, April 9, 2013.
"Community Testimony at Public Forum on Vulnerable Workers," Sponsored by the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission and the Commission on the Status of Women, May 10, 2012.
"La Movilización de la Comunidad Inmigrante Latina en Un Año Electoral," Multicultural Institute, Berkeley, CA, July 8, 2008.
"Labor Violations and Opportunities for State and Local Responses," Session: Immigrants, Labor Rights, and the Economy: National and Local Strategies for Improving Economic Opportunities for Immigrants, Immigrant Rights Summit, City and County of San Francisco, September 15, 2007.