Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Cinzia D. Solari

Second Advisor

Jorge Capetillo-Ponce

Third Advisor

Rosalyn Negron


Latino immigrant workers in the greater Boston food service industry are at high risk of exploitation and face multiple barriers defending their rights, including deportation, retaliation, discrimination, and job loss. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified workers’ vulnerability to exploitation in the wake of widespread unemployment and social insecurity. Studies suggest that immigrant workers are unlikely to contest poor working conditions unless they are organized into larger collective actions. However, in other contexts, workers with limited freedom to directly protest injustices leverage everyday forms of resistance to combat subjugation. This project examines how Latino immigrants in the greater Boston food service industry resist exploitation at work and the impact of COVID-19 on these strategies. Through a participatory action research approach in collaboration with five Latina immigrant co-researchers, the Las Mariposas Monarcas research collective conducted forty telephone interviews with Latino immigrant food service workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that Latino immigrant workers deployed dynamic “repertoires of resistance” across three spheres: 1) individual strategies characterized by narratives of resilience and hope, quitting, and vigilance; 2) interpersonal strategies characterized by direct appeals to supervisors, co-worker solidarity, and mutual aid; and 3) institutional strategies characterized by seeking help from allied institutions. Workers carefully assessed the tools of resistance available to them, considered the strengths and dangers of each one, and engaged with multiple strategies over multiple attempts and contexts. These findings demonstrate that immigrant workers are active, savvy, and persistent participants in the protection of their rights and dignity in an industry notorious for worker rights violations, and during one of the most turbulent periods for workers in modern history. Additionally, these findings have implications for how workers, advocates, and oversight agencies can incorporate everyday resistance into organizing models and frameworks to combat injustice in low-wage, high-risk industries.


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