John D. Skrentny, University of California San Diego

After Civil Rights: Race, Immigration and Law in the American Workplace

Mon, 10/26/2009
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

We hope you will join us for the second LAPA Seminar of 2009-2010, with John D. Skrentny, University of California San Diego.  The title of his talk is "After Civil Rights:  Race, Immigration and Law in the American Workplace."  His commentator will be Alexandra Kalev, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona.

For people planning to attend the seminar, a soft copy of Professor Skrentny's paper is available upon email request (, or you may pick up a hard copy during regular business hours in 416A Robertson Hall.

Professor Skrentny writes: "Can civil rights law provide equal job opportunity to people of all races and ethnicities, as well as prevent exploitation, in 21st century America?  In 1964, Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to eliminate widespread racial discrimination, segregation and hierarchy in the workplace.  Almost half a century later, and after decades of mass immigration, these are all still widespread and arguably more complex and entrenched than before.  In this paper,adapted from a book chapter in progress, I document employers' racial and ethnic stereotypes that lead employers to prefer Latino and Asian workers while discriminating against Black and White workers.  With a special focus on the meat-packing industry, which increasingly resembles that described by Upton Sinclair a century ago in The Jungle, I also show the ways these Latino workers are in turn segregated and exploited.  Finally, I explore the failure of discrimination law to provide relief, and probe alternatives to protect workers of all backgrounds.  Civil rights law-- as currently interpreted in the courts--does surprisingly little to prevent racial and ethnic hierarchy in the nation's workplaces."

John D. Skrentny is Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Professor of Sociology at the University of California-San Diego.  He is the author of The Minority Rights Revolution (Harvard University Press) and The Ironies of Affirmative Action (University of Chicago Press) and editor of Color Lines (University of Chicago Press).  His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including American Journal of Sociology, International Migration Review, Studies in American Political Development and Georgetown Law Journal.

Alexandra Kalev Kalev is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at U.C. Berkeley. She studies work and organizations, gender and racial inequality, law and society, and the labor process. Her research explores how organizational restructuring (both "high performance" systems and downsizing layoffs) affects the careers of women and minorities. She also studies, with Frank Dobbin, the making of effective corporate compliance with antidiscrimination laws and diversity programs. A second line of research looks at the diffusion of managerial models from political sociology and labor process perspectives. She now begins to explore the formal and informal accommodations of pregnancy at work, including employers' and co-workers' discriminatory actions and women's discrimination avoidance behavior. Kalev's work has been published in the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, the Administrative Science Quarterly, Law and Social Inquiry and the Hastings Law Review, among others.