• PRECARIOUS WORK EXPERIENCES OF IMMIGRANT TRUCKERS: LABOR PROCESS, NETWORKS, AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

      Zhang, Lu, 1979-; Bachmeier, James D.; Wagmiller, Robert L.; Chakravorty, Sanjoy; Anadolu-Okur, Nilgun, 1956- (Temple University. Libraries, 2020)
      This dissertation is about the incorporation of labor migrants from Turkey in the context of precarious U.S. labor markets. Labor market transitions and work experiences are two aspects of incorporation. This dissertation analyzes the process by which first-generation Turkish male immigrants arrive in the United States, enter low-wage jobs, and then shift to the trucking industry. This shift brings a significant upward mobility for them. This discussion explains how the socio-economic cleavages within the immigrant community both conform to and challenge the dynamics of immigrant-dominated sectors. Moreover, this study examines the work life of immigrant truckers through their conception of money, time, occupation, entrepreneurship, and labor. This dissertation addresses two sets of research questions: The first set analyzes the structural reasons of labor market transitions by looking at the limitations that immigrants face. The second set looks at the role of agent, examining the formation of family-based and community-based networks and resources. It asks the question of how migrants navigate the labor market by changing jobs and sectors as well as by forming businesses. The findings of this research draw from investigations spanning three years. The qualitative data is based on 24 in-depth interviews, as well as several hundred hours of participant observations among first-generation Turkish immigrants who work as truckers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The present study contributes to sociological knowledge in general and specifically to three areas of the discipline. First, it enriches the limited literature on Turkish immigrants in the United States, as there is a dearth of research on their labor market incorporation in the trucking industry. Second, it contributes to the theoretical discussions on the entrepreneurship of first-generation immigrants by focusing on small and understudied immigrant communities. Third, this study extends the academic knowledge about the work experiences of immigrant truckers. It examines how the varying immigrant work experiences outcomes are influenced by employment status and the structure of trucking segments. Chapter 2 develops a conceptual framework regarding the labor transitions of immigrants focused on three dimensions: the migration policies of sending and receiving countries, the structure of labor markets in the receiving context, and the characteristics of the immigrant community. Chapter 3 details the methodology and methods used in this study. Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 encompass the empirical sections of this dissertation. Chapter 4 discusses the migration patterns of truckers by focusing on the importance of social networks. Chapter 5 explores the pre-trucking period during which Turkish immigrants work in dead-end jobs and prepare to become truckers. Chapter 6 examines the work life of truckers by revealing the processes of obtaining commercial driver's licenses (CDL), choosing the segment of the industry where they will work, and their search for and selection of trucking companies and loads. Chapter 7 scrutinizes the acts of entrepreneurship in which these migrants are engaged. Chapter 8 summarizes the empirical findings while engaging with the theoretical debates within sociology on the incorporation of migrants. First, the labor demands of U.S. capitalism attract immigrants to certain low-income jobs with little promise. After the early years of settlement, nonetheless, migrants are able to mobilize networks and resources to change this early labor-intensive occupational entrapment. Such a change provides income and status increases for the migrants. I term this new concentration “creative occupational entrapment,” which can (potentially) bring migrants some economic success via entrepreneurship. However, the accessed immigrant resources are constrained by the limitations of the dynamics within the trucking industry. The segmentation within the trucking sector is not something created by immigrants, as they only fill out the existing segments depending on their resources and ties. Second, the characteristics of a migrant community heavily shape the differentiation within the trucking industry in terms of an individual’s sector segment and employment status. The way in which immigrants mobilize ties are affected by three dynamics: hometown background, class-based dispositions, and family-based resources. I define three segments of trucking in this study: (1) national tractor-trailer trucking, (2) regional tractor-trailer trucking, and (3) local dump trucking. National tractor-trailer trucking attracts a variety of immigrants who tend to leave this “tough” segment after a brief while due to opportunities in the other segments. Immigrants of relatively higher education levels from urban backgrounds are more likely to work in the “cool” regional tractor-trailer throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These individuals have loose ties to the immigrant community and have no tight-knit community ties. Conversely, immigrants of relatively lower education levels from rural background tend to concentrate in “dirty” dump trucking in specific counties of New Jersey. They have closer ties with the immigrant community and strict ties with their tight-knit community. Within each segment, new differentiations based on employment status are formed. Through the course of this research, five categories of immigrants were identified. Such categories depend on an individual’s employment status and the number of trucks they have: pre-trucking migrant workers have nothing to sell but labor (Employment 1), company truckers (Employment 2), survivalist truckers with one truck (Employment 3), family truckers with two trucks (Employment 4), and boss truckers who have more than three trucks (Employment 5). For the regional tractor-trailer segment, having class-based dispositions (such as English proficiency and the familiarity with the economic system) enables for the transitions from Employment 2 to Employment 3. Those who have family resources are more likely to increase their position from Employment 3 to Employment 4 and 5. For the local dump trucking segment, having tight-knit community ties and resources is usually enough to jump from Employment 2 to Employment 3. Thus, class-based dispositions are not strictly required given their tight-knit community resources. Those who have family-based resources have additional likelihood to increase their position from Employment 2 to Employment 4 and Employment 5. While individual-based resources are important to be self-employed due to the lack of community resources in regional tractor-trailer trucking, an individual’s tight-knit community helps truckers in local dump trucking to be self-employed. In both segments, family-based resources are key to becoming employers. The use of labor characterizes the labor market experiences of immigrants. For my participants, such a process begins with taking commands from employers, and ends with giving commands to their own employees. Labor matters when immigrants are exploited in non-trucking as well as trucking businesses. It also matters when they exploit themselves and family members in individual or family-based trucking businesses respectively. Only those who have several trucks are exempted from getting exploited. Although entrepreneurship might be economically beneficial for some, success is not always guaranteed in the long-term. Moreover, entrepreneurship potentially brings destructive competition, long hours of work and the intensive use of family labor.