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Head shot of Associate Professor Shannon Gleeson

Gleeson Named Edmund Ezra Day Professor

A sociologist who studies migrant worker rights and immigration policy has been named Cornell’s Ezra Edmund Day Professor.

Professor Shannon Gleeson is particularly interested in how worker rights policies are implemented on the ground and how workers, unions, worker centers and other NGOs navigate legal quandaries that impact precarious workers, especially the eight million U.S. workers who are undocumented.

A sociologist by training, Gleeson’s work has been anchored by several interdisciplinary collaborations. Through interviews and comparative case studies, Gleeson’s research examines the systemic barriers low-wage workers face and how labor organizations and other advocates help workers mobilize.

“Shannon Gleeson has been at the forefront of research on migrant workers’ rights and efforts to make Cornell a leading institution for the study of migration,” said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. '99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn '69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman '75, MS '76, Professor of Conflict Resolution.

Co-director with Eric Tagliacozzo of Cornell’s Migrations Initiative, Gleeson has helped oversee a grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Just Future’s Initiative to advance research that ties together racism, dispossession and migration. She mentors this year’s Migrations’ post-doctoral fellow, Ángel A. Escamilla García and trains undergraduates in sociological research as a thesis adviser and through the Worker Institute Student Fellows program.

Recently named an American Bar Foundation Affiliated Scholar, Gleeson is co-chairperson of ILR’s Labor, Law, & History Department.

Gleeson’s published books include “Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States” (University of California Press, 2016), and “Conflicting Commitments: The Politics of Enforcing Immigrant Worker Rights in San Jose and Houston” (Cornell University Press, 2012).

Scaling Migrant Worker Rights: How Advocates Collaborate and Contest State Power” (Oakland: University of California Press) with fellow sociologist Xóchitl Bada will be published in January. The book analyzes how organizations put tactical pressure on government bureaucracies to defend migrant rights. It will be the focus of a Pierce Memorial Fund-sponsored conference at ILR in April.

Gleeson has also co-edited:
– “Accountability across Borders: “Migrant Rights in North America” (University of Texas Press, 2019, edited with Xóchitl Bada),
– “Building Citizenship From Below: Precarity, Migration, and Agency” (Routledge, 2017, edited with Marcel Paret),
– “The Nation and Its Peoples: Citizens, Denizens, Migrants (Routledge, 2014, edited with John Park.

Status at Work: Immigration Policy, Race and the Nature of Precarious Labor,” supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, is a joint research project with Darlène Dubuisson and ILR colleagues Patricia Campos-Medina and Kate Griffith. Gleeson and colleagues draw on interviews with over 300 low-wage Haitian and Central American immigrant workers, and more than 50 of their advocates, in the New York City region. The book examines how labor and employment standards, immigration policies and the long shadow of racism and colonialism affects immigrants’ experiences at work.

Gleeson’s professorship is named after Cornell’s fifth president. An economist, Day served from 1937 to 1949, and was instrumental in building statewide support for the ILR School, which opened in 1945.

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