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Head shot of Associate Professor Shannon Gleeson

Gleeson, Lyon Lead Project Studying Labor Migration Programs

Shannon Gleeson, the Edmund Ezra Day Professor and chair of the ILR School’s Global Labor and Work Department, and Beth Lyon, associate dean for experiential education and clinical law professor at the Cornell Law School, have been selected to anchor the U.S. portion of a study examining migrant workers in the labor markets of high-income settler-colonial countries.

The overarching project, “Liberating Migrant Labor? International Mobility Programs in Settler-Colonial Contexts,” is being run by York University’s Leah Vosko, who received a $2.5 million Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Vosko is an ILR visiting scholar for the 2023-24 academic year.

“This is a very exciting collaboration to be involved with,” said Gleeson, who holds a joint appointment with the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and serves as co-chair of Cornell Migrations. “There is a pressing need for investigation of the conditions and outcomes of new 'international mobility programs' alongside traditional temporary labor migration programs within the context of settler-colonial states.”

Through a seven-year, multi-university partnership, “Liberating Migrant Labor?” seeks to address that need through a collaboration of scholars and representatives of national government agencies, international organizations, public interest groups, and transnational networks with a focus on four settler-colonial countries: Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

The partnership will employ a multi-method, comparative approach to fulfill four goals:

  1. tracing and connecting historical policy pathways of international mobility programs in each country
  2. documenting and comparing patterns and trends in size and composition of international mobility programs to identify analogues across countries under study
  3. establishing criteria for evaluating outcomes of mobility programs with a view to worker rights and protection
  4. articulating principles for policy redesign, informed by transnational and Indigenous perspectives, meaningful to policymakers and advocates, to establish fairer labor migration pathways and social relationships.

Lyon, director of Cornell Law’s Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic and Clinical Program, said “In the Farmworker Clinic, we’re representing dozens of survivors of extreme exploitation and abuse experienced while working in mobility programs.

“I’m looking forward to understanding their journeys in a larger interdisciplinary, international and comparative frame.”

This semester, ILR Ph.D. candidate Ashwin Kumar, and Worker Institute Fellows Suparna Agrawal ’25 and Gabriel Davila-Bustamante ’25 will help launch the project.