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Youbin Kang

Kang Joins Future of Work Initiative

Youbin Kang is researching the impact of immigration status on workplace precarity.

Postdoctoral candidate Youbin Kang recently discussed her ILR Future of Work fellowship.

What Future of Work project are you working on?

I am working on a project with Kate Griffith and Shannon Gleeson on labor rights enforcement through prosecutorial discretion for unauthorized immigrant workers and also further developing my dissertation, a comparative historical study of public transit labor relations in New York City and Seoul between 1974-2022.

How would you describe your role?

As a postdoctoral candidate, I am helping Professors Griffith and Gleeson on constructing a case database that utilizes an innovative, new directive that allows deferred action for unauthorized migrants who are employed in workplaces that are violating labor law. I will be conducting some of the interviews for this project. I am also expected to work on my own project during this time, finishing up my fieldwork in New York City and refining some working papers for publication.

Why are you drawn to this work?

I am interested in researching the ways that demographical change affects belief and sorting systems in the labor market, and how these beliefs and classifications influence collective action (or not, and why).

I was drawn to the work of Professors Griffith and Gleeson because the project juxtaposes two separate (but related) aspects of the legal system in America, immigration law and labor law, and examines their interaction through directives, advocate strategies and the policy/political exigencies of the state. I thought this was a fascinating policy experiment, and I am excited to learn from the impressive expertise of Professors Griffith and Gleeson.

How have your academic and other experiences prepared you for this role?

I am a sociologist by training, but have worked for Professor Tonya Brito, a legal scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on her project on access to justice. This trained me to have an eye on the force of law and the varied ways that individuals of different life circumstances interact with American jurisprudence.

I also spent some time before graduate studies at the International Labour Organization in Geneva and afterward as a consultant. I was involved in projects about regulating labor standards in the garment and trucking industries. These experiences sharpened my knowledge and analytical eye for the multiple ways that state policy, de jure and de facto law influence the workplace.

Beyond your contributions to the Future of Work initiative, tell us about you!

I love reading fiction and poetry as a hobby, which is a little detrimental to my physical body and sometimes quite punishing, given that academics spend so much time processing the written word. I try to balance this by forcing myself to do more physical activities like swimming, meditation, hiking and dancing. I am excited to explore the trails once the weather warms up and maybe purchase a bicycle.

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